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Former Owen Co. Auditor Arrested On Theft
Updated February 15, 2015 7:33 PM | Filed under: Crime
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(TERRE HAUTE) - The U.S. Attorney's office is bringing federal charging against a former Owen county auditor for using $310,000 in taxpayer money to pay for personal expenses, including food, alcohol, gift cards, toys, jewelry and vacations.

Two state board of accounts auditors worked full time for six months reviewing credit card receipts and Owen County financial records.

Federal officials surprised 56-year-old Lawson about 8 a.m Friday at her home near Gosport and arrested her on five counts of theft from a federal grand jury indictment that was the result of an investigation that started in July when the current auditor noticed a suspicious Walmart bill.

"The public deserves elected officials whom they can trust to be fiscally responsible and to do the right thing," U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said in a statement. "When that trust is betrayed, it shakes the foundation of our democracy and weakens the effectiveness of our government."

Preliminary Indiana State Police reports indicate Lawson went on shopping sprees often, sometimes spending more than $2,000 in one transaction. Court documents in the case state that there might be as many as 75 county-issued Walmart cards circulating and that Lawson may have given some to family members and friends.

She is also suspected of spending more than $18,000 in county funds for mail-order novelty items purchased from the Oriental Trading Co. and paying with a county check; not paying almost $50,000 in county health insurance premiums; and siphoning thousands from a county account that pays lawyers to represent indigent clients.

Here is how the alleged theft breaks down by year:

  • 2010 - $36,720
  • 2011 - $56,376
  • 2012 - $80,847
  • 2013 - $79,240
  • 2014 - $56,415

Owen County attorney Richard Lorenz recently filed a lawsuit on behalf of the county's commissioners that names former county auditor Angie Lawson and her husband, Larry Lawson.

The suit seeks the recovery of $1.18 million, three times the roughly $310,000 found missing so far from Owen County's public funds from her for alleged "acts of malfeasance. Indiana law allows for triple damages in civil cases involving misuse of public funds.

Court documents show that during a Jan. 13 hearing before Monroe County Judge Francie Hill, the Lawsons agreed to comply with the terms of a temporary injunction and promised not to sell any of the assets listed in the county's suit and to the hold on any disbursement of their pensions.

The suit states that Angie Lawson used county-issued credit cards to purchase liquor, lingerie, toys, diamond jewelry, televisions and numerous other items at a local Wal-Mart store. Lawson often spent more than $2,000 in a single shopping spree, sometimes accompanied by her husband, according to the suit.

Lawson was Owen County auditor from 2005 to 2012,. She was also an Owen County council member and deputy auditor in 2013 and 2014. She then served as chief deputy auditor from January 2013 until she was fired last August.
She was the Republican precinct committee woman in Wayne Township 2, where her husband, Larry, was the vice precinct committeeman, but they have resigned in light of the suspicions of financial malfeasance. Lawson also has resigned as treasurer of the Owen County Republican Party.

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