INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced on Monday that he has filed a lawsuit against a former sheriff and a sheriff's deputy who allegedly misused more than $52,000 while in office.

Zoeller alleges that Sheriff Calvin "Bud" Gray, a former Indiana sheriff in Hancock County, owes $42,556.33 to the county treasury. The money represents, Zoeller claims, travel expenditures he improperly documented, shortages of funds and purchases he made with public money.

The suit also alleges that sheriff's deputy Sgt. Brian Ellison owes $9,940.84 to reimburse shortages from an undercover drug-purchase fund.

An audit of the Hancock County Sheriff's Department's finances was conducted by the State Board of Accounts and completed on Jan. 12. The audit came about due to Gray's arrest in August on a criminal charge of obstruction.

"The vast majority of law enforcement officers in Indiana act with the highest integrity in their service protecting the public," Zoeller said.

"So it is extremely disheartening to learn from this audit that two officers are accused of failing to account for the public funds with which they are entrusted as their duties required. They are legally responsible for these funds and by law must repay what is unaccounted for, and it is my duty to collect to maintain the trust of the public we all serve."

Under state law, the attorney general has the authority to recover money from anyone who has misappropriated public money.

Zoeller seeks triple damages against both Gray and Ellison, as well as all costs related to the litigation. He also wants a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against both defendants so that their assets will be frozen and they cannot transfer, conceal or dissipate them until the lawsuit is resolved.

The audit conducted dealt with a period between Jan. 1, 2007 and Aug. 31, 2010.

During that time, Gray charged $52,841.65 in travel expenditures for hotel stays, meals and fuel, but nearly $26,400 lacked receipts to document purpose or justification, Zoeller says. Gray also allegedly shortchanged the office with other schemes.

The audit also found a shortage of $9,940.84 in "buy money" used for undercover drug purchases and require Ellison to pay it back, since he was the department's drug enforcement supervisor at the time, Zoeller says.

The Western Surety Company was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Gray had a surety bond through the company for $15,000 a year for the first three years and $30,000 the fourth year. Ellison was also covered under the county's blanket $50,000 surety bond policy.

Any amounts not recovered from the bonding company will be sought directly from Gray and Ellison.

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