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Cemetery treasurer charged with theft

$118,621 was discovered missing from account

December 07, 2011
A Greenville woman has been charged with 10 counts of theft after $118,621 was discovered missing from the checking account of the Greenlawn Cemetery Association in Greenville.

Oletta F. Harl, 66, who served as treasurer of the cemetery association for more than 12 years, was charged with the thefts after Bill Burkhart, cemetery board president, went to the bank where the association had its account and asked to be added to the signature card of the cemetery's account on Oct. 3. When Burkhart requested a balance check of the account, he expected a balance in excess of $100,000. Instead, the balance was only about $8,000. Burkhart requested copies of all bank statements for the account and set up an emergency meeting of the board of directors later that day.

Burkhart and another board member, Paul Mosier, went to Harl's home that evening and questioned her about the missing funds. Harl admitted taking the money, saying "Bill, I did it. I stole it. I plan to repay it."

"It shocked us," Burkhart said. "She was the last person on earth we thought would do something like that."

During her first year as treasurer, in 1999, Harl wrote herself at least four checks for wages totaling $2,379. The treasurer serves in a non-paying volunteer position. The check writing continued through the years leading to 19 checks totaling $16,600 being written in 2010 alone.

"This is going to be rough, unless we can get some kind of restitution," Burkhart said. "But once the dust settles, we'll have to make some decisions on how to go forward. Right now, we'll just have to wait to see what the judicial system does. We put a lot of trust in that."

Harl has been removed from the cemetery board and another treasurer has been appointed. The statute of limitations has ended for the losses incurred before 2006, which totaled more than $55,000, so those losses won't be included in the charges Harl is facing. But she is charged with taking in excess of $63,000, which makes the theft a Class D felony. If she had been charged with the money missing before 2006 as well, the total would be more than $100,000 and the charges would be Class C felonies, which are more serious.

Burkhart said the only income the cemetery has is from the sale of lots and interest on some certificates of deposit.

"But that interest is only about 1 percent on CDs now," he added. "So, it's going to be really hard to replace what was lost. I'm sure it's going to hurt us."

The mowing of the cemetery each year is the largest expense for the association. Other expenses include insurance and road maintenance.

"It takes a lot of time just to mow the property," Burkhart said. "I think the cemetery is on about five or six acres, so it's a lot. And Paul Mosier, who mows it for us, volunteered to mow for free the last couple of times. But that's a lot of expense for him in gas and labor. But Paul, like the rest of us, takes a lot of pride in keeping the cemetery looking good. We have some people who come in and volunteer to pick up limbs and sticks and do other chores, but it still takes money to keep it all going."

Motive for the alleged thefts is still in question; however, the Floyd County Prosecutor's office recently sought information on Harl's player's card at Horseshoe Southern Indiana's casino.

At Harl's initial court hearing on Nov. 3, she entered a plea of not guilty and posted a $10,000 cash bond. A trial is scheduled in Floyd County Superior Court for Jan. 10.

"This whole thing was shocking to us," Burkhart said. "She is a neighbor and a close friend. But we know this is going to be a long healing process for us all."

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