SKOWHEGAN — A former legal secretary and front desk clerk at the Somerset County district attorney’s office has been indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of theft of more than $10,000 from the county office and one count of tampering with public records, a misdemeanor. The class B felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The alleged actions by Julie Smith, 58, an employee since 2009 who has resigned since the investigation began in October, were first brought to the attention of the district attorney’s office manager in Skowhegan in October, authorities said.

Maeghan Maloney, the district attorney for both Somerset and Kennebec counties, said Friday the case was a major reason the courts stopped taking cash and check payments earlier this year.

According to the indictment, Smith, 58, took money paid as supervision fees and restitution in connection with the disposition of criminal cases handled by the district attorney’s office.

She is charged additionally with tampering with public records or information by making false entries in government documents. Smith allegedly entered “yes” in the restitution data base that cash had been paid out to Somerset County, knowing that the money had not been turned over to the county treasurer’s office, according to the indictment.

The activity is alleged to have taken place from about April 21, 2010, until about Oct. 9, 2014, the indictment reads.

Her husband is Mike Smith, the Somerset County county communications director.

A search warrant for Smith’s home and automobiles was obtained from the court by Detective Herbert Leighton, commander of the State Police Evidence Response Team. The investigation began with the apparent loss of $300 in supervision fees in October, according to court documents. A subsequent audit determined that receipt books were missing. The search warrant was executed by Leighton in October and included the Smiths’ home on Blackwell Hill Road in Madison, three motor vehicles registered to Julie and Mike Smith, Julie Smith’s cellphone and any bags, purses or containers in Smith’s possession.

An inventory of property taken in the search included records from Franklin Savings Bank and Bangor Savings Bank; all receipts, papers and sticky notes used to identify defendants’ payments; and planner books, checkbooks, deposit slips, office payment receipts, account cards, computer data and financial records.

Smith’s lawyer is Woody Hanstein, of Farmington. Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin, who is prosecuting the case, said Smith’s first court appearance before Justice Robert Mullen in Augusta has been scheduled tentatively for Sept. 17.

Maloney said her decision earlier this year, implemented in February, no longer to accept cash or personal checks for restitution, fines and fees was made in part because of the Smith investigation. The district attorney’s offices now accept only cashier’s checks or money orders, which mean paying a fee at a bank, post office or convenience store.

Maloney said at the time it was to ensure safety, because her Kennebec County offices no longer would have security officers when the court moved into the new Capital Judicial Center in Augusta and the district attorney office stayed behind in the old courthouse. It was criticized by some defense attorneys, who said that it could pose a problem for low-income defendants.

“I don’t see how anyone can refuse cash,” Augusta attorney Stephen Bourget said at the time. “A postal money order or a bank check costs more. If it’s a $15 payment, you have to add onto that $3 to $5 for a bank check. Even paying your fines online, there’s a charge for that and it increases the debt.”

Maloney said the policy change was supported by commissioners and administrators in both counties.

“Certainly our finance department will be very overjoyed that we’re not carrying around cash,” Kennebec County Administrator Robert Devlin said at the time. He said about $350,000 a year comes in for restitution and supervision fees, and up to about 40 percent of it had been cash.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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