Shelley Ausherman guilty in embezzlement
By Eric Weslander
The wife of the former Willow Springs Township treasurer has admitted embezzling more than $114,000 from the township's coffers.
Shelley Ausherman, wife of former treasurer Bruce Ausherman, falsified the township's checks during a two-year period, according to a plea agreement reached last week in U.S. District Court.
Willow Springs, one of nine townships in Douglas County, covers about 40 square miles south of Lawrence and provides services such as fire protection and road maintenance. The main source of funding is residents' tax dollars.
Shelley Ausherman admitted in her plea that between October 2002 and December 2004, she repeatedly wrote checks on the township's account payable to "T.C." -- the initials for her farm, Tauy Creek -- and deposited them in her personal bank account.
When the checks eventually were returned to the Aushermans by the township's bank, she concealed the theft by writing over the letters "T.C." to make it appear the checks had been written to other businesses.
"Shelley has cooperated fully in the investigation. She regrets very much her conduct in this case and intends to pay full restitution to the township," defense attorney Robin Fowler said.
Fowler also said that Bruce Ausherman "had no knowledge of and no participation in any of this activity."
Neither federal authorities nor Ausherman's attorney would say how she used the money.
The FBI began investigating earlier this year when a Douglas County official found a discrepancy during a routine audit of the township's books. The township reported to the county that it spent more than $235,000 on rock between 2002 and 2004, but there were no invoices for some of those purchases.
In 2004, the township received a $69,943 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That's why the case was charged in federal court.
Despite the multiple thefts, Shelley Ausherman was charged with just one count: theft from a program receiving federal funds. That charge specifically relates to a check she wrote to herself in October 2004 for $7,212.19.
She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, but it's unlikely she'll receive that much time. She will be sentenced Feb. 6 and is free on $25,000 bond.
The new Willow Springs treasurer, Suzanne Evinger, said the township is now requiring two signatures on checks, but she declined to talk about the case further because it's still pending.
"The only thing I can say is we're doing our best to get things straightened out," she said. "I'm sure that once this is completed, we will probably make more changes and that it won't happen again."
The Aushermans did not respond to a phone message left Wednesday at their Baldwin home. Township trustee Charles Wintermantel also did not return a call seeking comment.