Ex-sheriff’s dept. worker accused of embezzlement

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Berrien County Sheriff’s Department employee has been charged after allegedly embezzling some $75,000 from the agency.

JoAnn Roberts was charged Tuesday with embezzlement between $50,000 and $100,000. If convicted, the 66-year-old from Buchanan faces up to 15 years in prison.

She resigned from her position with the sheriff’s department in November.

Roberts had been a jail population manager with the sheriff’s department since 1998, according to a release from the Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office. In recent years, part of her job was to get money collected from people using electronic tethers ready for deposit with the county treasurer.

Prosecutors say that Roberts stole money from the collection envelopes and deposited it into her personal account, then replaced it with cash she took out of later tether collection envelopes. But eventually, she could no longer keep up with replacing the money.

Authorities say they think she stole more than $75,000 from the department. Much of the money, they say, appears to have been gambled away.

The prosecutor’s office said people using tethers were properly credited when they paid their fees. They were not expected to pay more because of the alleged embezzlement.

At arraignment Tuesday, Roberts’ bond was set at $10,000. She’ll have to come up with 10 percent of that to post bond. She’s expected back in court on Dec. 9 for a preliminary exam conference and again on Dec. 15 for the preliminary exam.

At the request of the Berrien County sheriff, detectives from the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Department handled the case. It’s common for law enforcement agencies to ask another department to investigate criminal allegations against an employee to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest or favoritism.

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