Felony fraud charges were filed against Maumelle’s Jean Wheeler Lewis and April Thomas with a trial date set for later this year.
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Lewis, was formerly the president of the Maumelle Friends of Animals, and in that capacity, prosecutors allege she took thousands of dollars from the organization in a multi-year scheme. She is charged with Theft of Property, a Class B Felony, as the amount was greater than $25,000.
Thomas, who still serves as treasurer of the organization, was hit with two charges. Both for Theft of Property, a Class D Felony, as the amounts were between $1,000 to $5,000 each.
Maumelle Mayor Caleb Norris said Thursday morning that the city became aware of the fraud allegations late last year and the investigative “file ends in the prosecutor’s office” and “it was there so long.”
Norris said the fraud, “was a series of transactions … but my understanding is that it was somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000 that they ended up charging with.”
“As soon as the city heard rumors that this was occurring, we sent it to the police department who conducted a full scale criminal investigation,” Norris said, “We immediately stopped our interaction with the Friends of the Animals as soon as we found out.
Norris, along with City Attorney Melissa Krebs and Chris Davis with the city’s Animal Control office worked together, as they “wanted a much clearer line between the responsibilities of the city” and Maumelle Friends of Animals.
Maumelle Friends of Animals is a non-profit that worked closely with the city, but was not under Maumelle’s purview, Norris said.
“There was a lot of confusion about the two entities,” Norris added. “I'd be willing to say most didn't really realize it was two entities. And we shouldn't have allowed that to happen.”