ANSON — More than $320,000 in excise tax money has disappeared from the Town Office over the last three years, an auditor has found.

A letter to the town sent Tuesday from accountants Purdy Powers & Co. said there is a shortfall of $327,956 between the amount of excise tax collected and the amount deposited to the town’s checking account from 2012 through last September.

The shortfall far exceeds town officials’ original estimate of about $77,000 in missing 2014 excise tax, the money from town motor vehicle registrations.

“It was more than we thought it would be over three years,” Arnold Luce, chairman of the selectmen, said on Thursday. He said it’s possible money from before 2012 is missing, too, but the audit went back only that far. “There’s nothing to say that it didn’t (go on before that).”

Police are continuing to investigate the money’s disappearance after having seized $58,500 in April from the North Anson home of Tax Collector Claudia Viles that they said was related to the investigation.

Maine State Police Trooper Christopher Crawford said earlier in the week that the investigation is ongoing. He could not be reached on Thursday.


Viles, who has been tax collector for 42 years, says she has done nothing wrong.

Reached on Thursday at the Town Office, Viles said she was unaware of the auditor’s letter.

“I haven’t been informed of anything,” she said, referring requests for comment to her attorney, Walter McKee.

McKee said in an email Thursday, “Claudia is adamant that she took no monies whatsoever. Simply because there is a difference in the amounts noted here doesn’t mean that Claudia Viles stole any money.”

Luce said Thursday that he has “no idea” what could have happened to the money. He would not comment when asked whether he believes Viles was taking money from the town.

“Our job is to get back what money we can, and I’m sure there will be an investigation into what happened. That’s really someone else’s job,” he said. “Any criminal investigation is up to the police or the attorney general or whoever is going to do this.”


Town officials originally believed that about $77,000 was missing from the Town Office. The discrepancy was found by town Administrative Assistant Triss Smith, who last month resigned after a year at the post.

In December, Smith calculated a $78,645 difference between the amount of money Viles had reported collecting and the amount that was collected, according to court records. The figures prompted the town in January to seek an audit of the town’s 2014 finances.

Purdy Powers confirmed the discrepancy, which was revealed to voters in March at Town Meeting.

Later that month, Richard Emerson, of Purdy Powers, met with Luce and Viles to review records from 2014. During that meeting, Viles told Emerson that she had reprinted calculator tapes to try to make the accounting numbers work and said, “I’m the tax collector. It’s my responsibility and I’ll pay it back,” according to the court records.

Town officials then requested a five-year review of excise tax records, but the review stopped when the amount of missing money revealed in the audit exceeded $250,000, the maximum amount the town is insured for, Luce said Thursday.

The audit calculated the excise amounts on the green copies of motor vehicle registrations processed at the Town Office.


Under the old system, the registrations were summarized weekly to coincide with a report produced by the town’s motor vehicle software program. Any differences between the registrations collected and the reporting were noted, according to the letter.

The audit also looked at transactions recorded in the town’s accounting system and listed as excise tax revenue. Each of those transactions was checked against the deposits in the town checking account.

After reviewing the years 2012 and 2013, the auditors found additional money missing in 2014, Luce said. The total amount missing in 2014 was $90,109, according to the letter from Emerson.

The audit also revealed that $112,491 in taxes was missing in 2013 and $125,356 in 2012.

The town’s insurance policy covers only up to $250,000 in missing money, so after the audit revealed that more than that was missing, the town decided to stop reviewing records, Luce said. It costs $7,000 to $10,000 to audit a year’s worth of records, he said.

“We originally were going to look back over the last five years, but the insurance policy is only for $250,000,” Luce said. “Once we went over that and not being sure we would be able to recoup the money, we pretty much decided not to keep going.”


The new computer system, which Smith introduced shortly after she was hired in May 2014, requires employees to review cash flow daily and make daily bank deposits, he said.

“Everything is good from there on, because we went to daily deposits,” he said. “Every day the money taken in is accounted for and looked at in comparison to the money being deposited.”

When asked whether he thinks money is continuing to disappear from the Town Office, Luce said, “It would be very hard for someone to do, or for anything to happen, whatever happened.”

The town plans to file an insurance claim within the next week and is submitting the letter from Emerson with it, Luce said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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