AUGUSTA — Claudia Viles, former tax collector for the town of Anson, pleaded not guilty to 13 Somerset County charges related to tax fraud Thursday morning in a court appearance at the Capital Judicial Center.

Viles, who resigned from the job Sept. 10, is charged with theft, five counts of failure to make or file state income tax returns, six counts of failure to file or pay state income taxes and tampering with public records. The charges stem from an investigation by the Office of the Maine Attorney General into $438,712 in missing excise tax money from the Anson Town Office.

Viles, 65, said little during the arraignment Thursday morning, except to enter the plea and to acknowledge that she understood her arraignment rights. Viles declined to comment outside of the court after the hearing. Wearing a black pantsuit and tinted glasses, she was accompanied by about five people, including Anson Selectwoman Inez Moody.

Bail was set at $10,000 unsecured, meaning it doesn’t have to be paid unless she fails to comply with conditions of release or fails to attend a scheduled court appearance.

Prosecutor Leanne Robbin, an assistant attorney general, asked that special conditions be included in the bail, including that Viles not be allowed in the Town Office as a tax collector, that she be barred from her duties as tax collector and that she turn over any property of the town that is in her possession, including keys to the Town Office and any town records. She said the conditions were requested in a letter from the Anson Board of Selectmen.

The letter, which the Morning Sentinel obtained Wednesday from the Town Office, says the board requested the bail conditions to restore the faith and confidence of Anson residents in the tax collection process.


“Given that Ms. Viles has been indicted for misappropriating a significant amount of money that she collected from Anson citizens in the form of taxes, the townspeople will not have confidence that they should make their payments through Ms. Viles and/or that their payments will be handled properly,” it says.

Walter McKee, Viles’ attorney, said Viles already has returned her keys to the Town Office and doesn’t have any town records in her possession. “We have none. There is nothing to be returned,” he said.

As of Sept. 9, the Town Office was missing excise tax records from 2010 and part of 2013.

The indictment charges Viles with tampering with records from those years.

Anson Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray said she could not comment Wednesday when asked whether the Town Office still is missing tax records.

McKee said it did not make sense for the judge to bar her from duties as tax collector, because she already has resigned from the position.


Justice Robert Mullen set the bail at $10,000 unsecured, and the only special condition he included in the bail was that Viles not enter the Town Office as tax collector.

In August, Mullen also approved a lien on Viles’ North Anson home as part of a civil lawsuit the town has against her. That suit is on hold while the criminal charges are pending.

Viles hasn’t commented on the missing money and also has denied the allegations against her in the civil lawsuit. She has been tax collector, an elective position, for 42 years and was at work through much of the investigation into the missing excise tax money.

Town officials said they could not remove her from the job or limit her duties because she was an elected official and the town does not have a recall ordinance. State law provides a recall procedure for elected officials that is only applicable if the officials in question have been convicted of a crime involving the municipality while they are in office.

The investigation into the missing money began in December, when former Administrative Assistant Triss Smith found a discrepancy of $78,645 between the amount of money Viles had reported collecting in 2014 and the amount deposited in the town’s bank account.

Smith, who started working for the town in May 2014, had implemented a computer system that went online in September last year that automatically credited payments, and the town also began making daily deposits of the money it took in.


Smith told police that she first asked Viles if they could figure out together what went wrong, but Viles was “adamant” that she would work it out herself.

In January, the town contacted Purdy Powers & Co. to perform an audit, which confirmed that $76,686 was missing from the 2014 town accounts. That information was reported to residents at Town Meeting in March as well as to the police.

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Arnold Luce said the town always has conducted monthly audits of tax records, and he believes auditors were given false information during those audits.

A review in March of how Viles processed excise tax payments revealed that she wasn’t recording the right numbers even though she appeared to understand how to do the job correctly, according to court records.

Since then audits of subsequent years of tax records have revealed shortfalls of $112,491 in 2013, $125,356 in 2012 and $110,756 in 2011. The total amount found to be missing from 2014 was $90,109. The cost to the town to audit a single year’s worth of records is about $8,000, and the Board of Selectmen is debating whether to continue reviewing previous years’ tax records. The town already has recovered $250,000 through an insurance policy with the Maine Municipal Association, the maximum allowable under the policy, and it is unclear whether they would be able to recover any more money, Luce said.

Thursday’s Somerset County hearing was held in the Augusta court because neither McKee nor Robbin were available on the regular arraignment day in Skowhegan. Future hearings will be held in Somerset County.


Viles’ next court appearance is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Oct. 28.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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