POMEROY — A Middleport woman indicted nearly four years ago for taking money while working as the water clerk for the village of Rutland was sentenced this week in Meigs County Common Pleas Court.
Mista Eldridge, now known as Mista Leib, 36, pleaded guilty in September to a third-degree felony charge of theft in office.
On Monday, at the time of sentencing in the theft case, Leib also pleaded guilty in a second (unrelated) case to a third-degree felony charge of burglary. The burglary charge was the result of an alleged incident in July 2017.
According to Sentinel reports in March 2014, the time of the indictment, Eldridge was the second Rutland village clerk to be indicted in the theft of around $82,000 combined according to a special audit report. (Laura Curtis was previously convicted of theft in office in relation to the audit findings. Findings against Curtis totaled $65,971.
In February 2011, Eldridge began working off court-ordered community service hours in the village’s utility department. In October 2011, the village hired Eldridge as a water clerk while she was still completing community service. The audit found that in 2011 and 2012, Eldridge’s certified community service hours overlapped with her paid hours by 107.5 and 188.5 hours, respectively. Based on her hourly rate of $8.50, a finding for recovery was issued against Eldridge in the amount of $2,515.
The audit also found that Eldridge wrote duplicate receipts for cash collected that was not accounted for — totaling $1,094. Eldridge adjusted utility accounts as well, reducing the amounts billed to zero and payments made to zero. Billing stubs totaling $11,072 were found indicating that payments were received by the village, but they were not included in bank deposits. A second finding for recovery was issued against Eldridge in the amount of $12,166.
The plea agreement in the theft in office case called for Eldridge to be sentenced to five years of community control with a three year underlying sentence. The community control term is to begin following her release from prison on the second case.
She was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $13,768.25.
According to the plea agreement in the burglary case, Leib was to be sentenced to 18 months in prison, with judicial release into the STAR program after six months if she is accepted into the program. She also must testify truthfully against co-defendent James Bias should she be called upon to do so.
Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.