Bryan Cohen Mar. 5, 2014, 3:07pm

LAPORTE, Ind. (Legal Newsline) - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced a lawsuit on Monday against a former LaPorte County government employee after she allegedly embezzled more than $153,000 in public funds.

Mary Ray, a former deputy auditor in the LaPorte County Auditor's Office, allegedly embezzled county funds 150 times between September 2011 and December 2012 for a total of $153,002.46 stolen. Ray allegedly used schemes such as check-kiting to swap unrecorded checks for cash and keep county accounts balanced while withdrawing money for herself.

"When the very individual in charge of receiving and preparing deposits of taxpayers' money is accused of embezzling that money, it is a profound violation of public trust, and we will use the legal tools at our disposal to compel repayment from this defendant in order to reimburse the public treasury for the amount lost in this brazen scheme," Zoeller said.

The lawsuit seeks repayment of $153,002.46 from Ray, plus an added $45,815.25 in accounting costs incurred by state examiners for a total of $198,817.71. Because there was not a surety bond specifically on Ray to cover employee theft, the entire $198,817.71 is her legal responsibility to pay. The county is also seeking to obtain proceeds from its county insurance policy to cover the lost funds.

"Most government employees are trustworthy and good stewards of taxpayers' money," Zoeller said. "But having sued to recover public funds from embezzlers in many similar cases, the attorney general's office now is working on developing a coalition of groups that will provide training to local government agencies on internal accounting controls and best practices that might help deter misappropriation of public funds in the first place."

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