Public Safety

Conservation assistant will plead to embezzling nearly $400,000 from Black Hawk and Bremer county districts

She faces up to 20 years and making restitution

CEDAR RAPIDS — A former assistant with the Black Hawk and Bremer County water conservation districts will plead guilty in federal court to embezzling $376,959 and using the money for vacation cruises, online shopping and home repairs, records show.

Leslie Carey, formerly known as Leslie Grundy, who worked for both county soil and water conservation districts since July 2007, is charged with one count of wire fraud, according to U.S. District Court documents. Monday, she filed an intent to plead guilty to the charge.

A state audit was conducted in 2018 after officials with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship had concerns over the appropriate use of funds. The districts use the public funds to conduct surveys, investigations, research on soil erosion and sediment damage and other control measures and comprehensive plans to conserve natural resources.

She was placed on paid administrative leave Dec. 1, 2017, and resigned Dec. 12, 2017, according to the audit report.

Carey was responsible for the districts’ receipts, disbursements, payroll, bank accounts and reporting, according to court documents. She would collect and post accounting records, make bank deposits, sign checks, prepare and distribute payroll and reconcile monthly banking statements.

The Black Hawk district maintained six checking and six savings accounts at a credit union, documents show. The district also had two certificates of deposit.

The Bremer County district had two checking and two savings accounts and three certificates of deposit.

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Carey, starting in June 2010 and continuing until December 2017, used and misappropriated about $181,913 in cash withdrawals; $42,150 in credit card purchases; $63,346 in debit card purchases; and $89,550 in other unauthorized transactions from the districts, according to court documents.

She used the districts’ money for her own home repairs, online shopping and vacations. Carey was able to conceal her scheme by transferring funds among the water districts’ accounts, altering statements and submitting false reports to the commissioners of both districts.

A plea hearing hasn’t yet been set. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in federal prison and payment of restitution.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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