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Cherryville former Finance Director pleads guilty to embezzlement

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A criminal bill of information was filed today in U.S. District Court charging Cherryville's former Finance Director with embezzling over $435,000 from the City of Cherryville, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Bonny Verley Alexander, 58 and another former Cherryville employee, Jennifer Neal Hoyle, 34, agreed to plead guilty to the charges stemming from a joint federal and state investigation into misappropriated city funds.

Hoyle, the report states, was also charged with embezzling over $92,900 from the city.

According to the bill of information and the filed plea agreement, up until her retirement in December 2011, Alexander was employed by the City of Cherryville as its Finance Director and supervised the city's Finance Department.

In that capacity, Alexander oversaw the city's accounting, financial reporting and treasury divisions, as well as the city's revenue collections and customer service departments. As the Finance Director, Alexander also had access to and was able to process payroll payments to Cherryville employees, direct payments for city expenses, issue checks on behalf of the city, remove canceled checks from the city's records and make adjustments to Cherryville's electronic accounting systems, court records indicate.

From about August 2005 through December 2011, Alexander embezzled at least $435,294 of Cherryville's funds and used the money to pay personal expenses. Court documents show that Alexander made weekly payroll payments to herself which were more than 300% of her authorized net pay from the city.

In total, Alexander embezzled approximately $309,594 from the City of Cherryville in this manner.

Court records also show that Alexander used city funds to pay for personal expenses, including shopping and travel expenses, she charged on her personal credit card by issuing checks from the City of Cherryville made out to American Express.

According to filed documents, Alexander issued the city checks and forged on those checks the signature of another Cherryville employee who was the authorized signatory on the account. Then, to avoid detection, after the forged checks had cleared and were returned by the bank, she would remove them from the city's records, court documents show.

Alexander issued and forged a total of 26 checks from the City of Cherryville totaling approximately $97,000 to pay off personal charges on her American Express card.

Hoyle, a former Senior Customer Service Representative/Utility Supervisor for the City of Cherryville, was charged with and pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program fraud for embezzling approximately $92,922 from the City of Cherryville.

According to the federal charging document and the filed plea agreement, Hoyle was responsible for the collection and posting of utility payments made by Cherryville utilities customers.

Hoyle, who reported to Alexander, was terminated in May 2012.

According to filed court documents, beginning in January 2008 through May 2011 Hoyle embezzled approximately $92,922 from the City of Cherryville by taking cash payments made by customers paying their utilities bills for her own use.

Court records show that Hoyle would accept the cash from the customers and issue paper receipts. She would credit the customers' accounts with the payment, keep the cash, and then, using her supervisory override privileges, would go in the computer system and delete the transaction, court records show.

Court records also show that, in order to avoid any potential customer complaints, Hoyle would create entries in the "extra charge" journal in which she would "write off" the cash amount the customers paid so that bills containing the embezzled amount would not be issued.

Alexander is charged five counts of program embezzlement. She agreed to plead guilty to the charges and faces a maximum term of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count.

Hoyle agreed to plead guilty to three counts of program fraud. She faces a maximum prison term of 10 years and a $250,000 fine per count.

Both women's initial appearances and plea hearings will be scheduled by the U.S. District Court.

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