A former Mayflower court clerk is accused of embezzling more than $2 million from the city by falsifying documents and deleting records during her tenure years ago.
Online records show Sheila Ann Caudle, 59, was booked into the county jail at 7:55 p.m. Tuesday. The Mayflower woman posted a $100,000 bond just after midnight Wednesday.
The arrest stems from an investigation that launched in Sept. 2017 regarding funds that were unaccounted for within the Mayflower District Court following an Arkansas Legislative Audit. The investigation concluded Dec. 21, 2018.
Caudle began working for the city of Mayflower on Jan. 1, 2010, and she resigned from her position as court clerk on Aug. 16, 2014.
According to court documents, a legislative audit that was conducted prior to Caudle’s resignation showed that the Mayflower District Court’s cash receipts “exceeded cash bank account deposits by $4,963 for the period of January 1, 2012 through August 14, 2014.”
Because she was the custodian of those funds at the time, audit staff questioned Caudle about the funds on Feb. 12, 2015.
“Caudle indicated the cash shortage was due to cash refunds being given to individuals who overpaid with checks or money orders,” the probable cause affidavit filed formally Tuesday morning in Faulkner County Circuit Court reads in part. “Documented cash refunds totaling $1,690 were subsequently discovered, leaving $3,273 in unaccounted for cash.”
As he began looking into the case, Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office investigation John Randall met with Mayflower Treasure Crystal Hatfield on Oct. 19, 2017, and requested “all court documents” from Jan. 1, 2010 through Aug. 14, 2014. At the time, most of the documents were in storage, so Hatfield requested more time to reach out to Division I Head Clerk Donna Rappold for assistance in gathering the documents. However, when Randall met back with Hatfield, it appeared the comments “had been tampered with.”
One of the receipt books “was missing several pages,” according to the affidavit.
This particular receipt book was used for collecting and documenting cash fine payments.
During the investigation, authorities also learned Caudle alleged would collect cash fine payments from residents while she was away from her desk.
“It was also reported to me that several citizens would pay their fines in cash while Mrs. Caudle was outside smoking or working in the flower bed,” the affidavit reads in part.
Authorities also noted there were “several discrepancies” in the data pulled from the Mayflower Court Virtual Justice System and Centennial Bank records.
Investigators worked with other court staff in an attempt to compare the records but “could never get Mayflower Court’s bank deposits to match Sheila’s computer entries,” according to the affidavit.
“This is due to her falsifying the amounts she collected from the public,” the affidavit states.
According to the Mayflower Court Virtual Justice System, the city brought in $1,124,573.32 in fines and other fees. Bank records show Caudle deposited $1,154,916.32, which is $30,343 more than the system showed the city collected.
Authorities could not determine how much of this amount was paid in cash “due to the missing fine payment receipts,” the affidavit states.
Following this finding, Randall also reviewed records from the previous court clerk and learned Caudle inherited a fine balance of $1,597,140.85 when she took overt as clerk. The virtual court system “only shows Caudle collected funds totaling $133,230.85 on those old fines and fees.”
The investigation showed there was a discrepancies in the amounts of work service credited to offenders’ accounts and that Caudle “dismissed 1,889 cases” from the court system.
A statement by the city’s financial director indicated Caudle had destroyed a number of the city’s documents prior to her resignation.
According to the affidavit, Dale Carter “witnessed Caudle burning court documents in the parking area behind Mayflower City Hall.” When questioned about burning city documents, Caudle allegedly claimed she “had digitized all her data and no longer needed to keep paper documents.”
Of the work service credit documented from 2010-14, Randall said he knew the $196,473.54 logged as jail work service credit was fraudulent. Randall, who was a jail administrator from 2007-2016, said the jail did not have a work credit program in place for the city of Mayflower during the time frame Caudle reportedly logged the aforementioned jail credits.
According to the affidavit, Caudle adjusted off $159,013.50 worth of time pays she inherited from 2004-09.
“This total is made up of 271 customers with case numbers from 2004 to 2009,” the affidavit reads. “Those customers had already been found guilty by the sitting judges. She did not have the authority/approval to remove any of those court fines.”
Records also indicated she adjusted fine payment amounts issued from 2010-14 by $913,188.45.
The investigation ultimately revealed a total balance of $2,066,441.52 in missing funds, according to court documents.
The affidavit also indicates Caudle is accused of printing “dummy checks” prior to her resignation.
Authorities met with Caudle regarding the investigation on Nov. 15, 2018. While she declined to speak with investigators regarding the case without an attorney present, she did ask to hear what they had “been working on.” When the Mayflower woman said the missing money from the previous audit was due to overpayment of fines had already been accounted for, Randall informed her this was not true, according to the affidavit.
Randall said $3,273 remained unaccounted for and in looking for the funds, he “discovered a lot of fraudulent activity” including:The work detail list. Destroyed city fines/fees receipt books. Altered judges-approved payment plans and refunds. Altered judge/clerk court dockets. Destroyed city court dockets. Payments that “were receipted and inputted in the system wrong.” Altered warrants lists. Dismissed charges, including one against Caudle’s son.
Once authorities detailed the evidence in the case, the affidavit states Caudle claimed she did not steal from the city during her tenure as court clerk.
“I have never stolen anything form Mayflower Courts … maybe a pen or a pencil … do you think I need to resign from my state job … if so when will you be filing formal charges and will you do it before Thanksgiving,” Caudle reportedly asked of investigators on Nov. 15.
The Log Cabin Democrat first reported on the investigation against Caudle on Nov. 21. The following morning, the former Mayflower court clerk was involved in a train vs. vehicle crash. According to court documents, authorities do not believe this crash was accidental.
Caudle had attempted to commit suicide by train, authorities said in the affidavit.
After reviewing footage captured by Union Pacific Railroad cameras, authorities observed Caudle sitting in her vehicle near the tracks.
“Once the train got close to her, she pulled onto the tracks and stopped. When the vehicle stopped, you could see the driver sitting there watching the train come towards her. There was no attempt to move off the tracks by Caudle,” the affidavit states.
The crash occurred at 8:13 a.m. at the White City Road rail road crossing. The trail was traveling less than 20 mph when it hit Caudle’s vehicle on the morning in question. According to the affidavit, Caudle had also left behind a suicide note.
As of press time Wednesday, a plea and arraignment hearing regarding the matter had not yet been set.