ZEIGLER — Former city treasurer Ryan Thorpe pleaded guilty in March to embezzling more than $300,000 from the city of Zeigler, but new research might point to more theft.
Jamie Moyers hasn’t been on the job long, but the recently appointed finance commissioner has been doing his best to make sense of the city’s finances, which he said were dire during a City Council meeting Tuesday.
In trying to make sense of things, Moyers has gone back through four years of credit card statements and found scores of suspect charges. He reported to the council Tuesday that there have been four Visa cards issued to the city — only one was ever out at a time — with two canceled because of fraud and another because the city fell behind paying its bills.
BENTON — Ryan Thorpe, the former Zeigler treasurer investigated by the FBI for defrauding the city to the tune of more than $300,000, pleaded …
Moyers presented a spreadsheet that he said represented about 10 to 15 percent of the charges made to the account between June of 2013 and August of 2017. The compiled list shows thousands of dollars of charged to Amazon, Walmart and other retailers not related to city matters.
Moyers said several charges coincide with trips Thorpe made personally — he backed these up through Facebook posts. He said an almost $300 charge in Sevierville, Tennessee, matched up with an anniversary trip the Thorpes took in June 2017. Others were more concerning.
Moyers said in four years the city spent about $11,000 at Walmart. He said of the receipts he could find, he saw several personal items purchased: pickles, a three-man tent, barbecue sauce, fishing poles and steaks.
“Mr. Thorpe was one of the city family,” Zeigler's attorney said. However, she said his facade of civic-mindedness was “ground cover” for “acts of swindle, theft and deceit.”
“It looked like the credit card became Ryan’s credit card,” Moyers said of his findings.
He also pointed out a trip made in April 2017 to the Gulf Coast of Florida. A charge of $1,070.77 was made to Legacy by the Sea for a five-night stay there. From Facebook sleuthing, Moyers said he realized that former city finance commissioner Jim Flood was also on that trip. Another charge was more than $200 charged to a steakhouse in Chicago, which lined up with a city-related trip Flood and Thorpe had taken together.
Moyers and Mayor Dennis Mitchell had said they were hoping to ask Flood questions about several of the charges, particularly the Florida trip, however Flood did not attend the Tuesday meeting. When asked, Mitchell said he had not given notice that he would not be there.
“I thought we’d maybe have a little light shed on that tonight,” Moyers said of the Florida trip.
“I haven’t found any evidence yet that links Jim to actually benefiting (from) stealing money himself,” he said. However, he said at the very least there was a “dereliction of duty” on Flood’s part in not catching the bogus charges made to the card. He said there was a very unique control over purchase orders at the city.
“This guy could have been caught a long time ago,” Moyers said, had the bills only been checked and had there been proper checks and balances on the city’s finances.
Those in attendance expressed frustration and concern, however, jokes were also made in light of the situation. Moyers said he knew some of the charges could be legitimate, which is why he wanted to go over the report in an open meeting — he had hoped department heads would be able to shed light on some of the charges. However, it came out during the meeting that department heads did not get invoices for the purchase orders, so any fact-checking would have to be done from memory.
Zeigler’s city attorney, Rebecca Whittington, said a series of questions should be put together and answers should be provided at the next council meeting. She said this will be the first step in figuring out their legal recourse.
When asked, Whittington said civil or criminal charges were possible. She said any fines given to Thorpe through legal action would be added to the restitution he was ordered to pay in federal court.
Moyers said the credit card charges were not looked at by the FBI in their investigation as best he could tell. He also reported that currently the city owes about $400 on the credit card.