Police report shows treasurer stole nearly $70K; Auditor for levee district didn't catch missing funds

By Record News | Dec 7, 2018

Wood River Drainage and Levee District secretary and treasurer Jamie Butkovich allegedly stole $67,661.41 from district funds between March 2017 to September 2018, spending it at various bars, casinos and craft stores. 

She was arrested by Wood River police on Sept. 26 and charged with theft over $10,000 and official misconduct. Madison County Circuit Judge Neil Schroeder set bond for Butkovich at $50,000.

A police report released this week includes 15 pages of debit card transactions considered "suspicious," among them were 56 ATM withdrawals from Woodstock Bar in Alton for a total of $11,368; and 13 withdrawals from the Moose Social Club in Edwardsville for a total of $5,637.

Detective Sergeant Christopher Johnson created the initial report on Sept. 13, stating that he and Wood River Police Chief Brad Wells met with Wood River attorney Renee Butler and District Commissioner Margaret Weber on Sept. 11. 


Butkovich  

During the meeting, Johnson and Wells were informed that “Ginger” at 1st Mid Bank and Trust believed there were several suspicious transactions made using Wood River Visa debit cards belonging to the Levee District. Ginger informed Weber of the suspicious transactions and provided bank statements for all three district accounts – the "Rand" account and two "Maintenance" accounts. 

According to the report, Johnson and Wells were informed that Butkovich held all three debit cards and had access to their PIN numbers. 

Weber advised Johnson and Wells that the Levee District’s fiscal year begins in October each year, and the most recent audit performed by Donohoo, McCalley and Associates had not found any discrepancies. 

However, bank statements showed “several suspicious transactions made from various locations that were not consistent with city business,” the report states.

Then, on Sept. 12, Johnson, Detective Brenton Rombach and Officer Christopher Alfaro met with Butler and Weber at the Levee District parking lot, located at 543 West Avenue in Wood River. 

Butkovich arrived for work at 8:35 a.m. and was advised by Johnson of the accusations being made against her. Butler presented Butkovich with a letter advising her that she was being placed on unpaid leave during an investigation and that she was suspected of using the debit cards without proper authorization. Butkovich complied and handed over her work keys and city cellphone. 

Butkovich agreed to go with Johnson to the police department to speak about the allegations.

“It should be noted that at no time did Jamie deny or become surprised that Officers were there to speak with her about the theft, or that Ms. Butler and Mrs. Weber were present to serve her with unpaid leave papers,” the report states.

During her interview with Johnson and Rombach, Butkovich’s story changed several times, according to the police report. 

Butkovich at first said she did not know why she was there (at police station). 

She agreed that she had access to all three city debit cards and PIN numbers and was able to withdraw money from all accounts. She also said all commissioners, maintenance employees and her bosses have access to the debit cards, which are typically kept in her desk at work.

Butkovich told detectives that her personal checking account is at the same bank as the city accounts and she uses the same PIN numbers for all accounts. She said she believed she was using the city’s debt cards instead of her own by mistake. 

She also said that at the end of June, her work computer crashed and she lost all banking transactions.

Butkovich said she realized that she had been using the district’s cards by mistake “a couple of weeks ago” and was going to talk to “Greg” the day of the interview about how to rectify the situation. 

However, she later told detectives that she had withdrawn money without authorization to buy wreath supplies for her business, Jamie’s Crafts. 

Butkovich said she “shocked herself” after going through the bank statements and seeing how many ATM withdrawals there were, the report states. She said she withdrew from the City’s accounts between 20 and 25 times.

After seeing the bank statements, Butkovich confessed to taking district money for her own personal use, but added that there were times when she got the cards mixed up. She admitted to taking about $5,000 in the previous few months. 

Butkovich said she was using the money to pay her parents’ bills and keep them “afloat,” saying her mother was in the hospital and her father had suffered a stroke, the report states. 

She said she used the money from district accounts for groceries and for gas for her dad to get back and forth from the hospital. She added that no one, including her husband or mother, knew where the money was coming from, according to the report. 

She also admitted to transferring money from district debit cards to her personal Paypal account. 

She told detectives that she did not keep receipts for the money she withdrew from the three district accounts without authorization. 

“Jamie said that she knew what she was doing was wrong, and wanted to quit every time she make (sic) an unauthorized transaction,” the report states.

“Jamie said that she was aware that the money she stole was tax payer money, and that she wanted to pay the money back,” it later adds. 

“Jamie said she was not really hiding anything she was doing, stating that she knew she would eventually get caught,” it continues. “Jamie said that stealing money from the City was starting to ‘get to her.’”

According to the report, Johnson reviewed the bank statements on Sept. 13. He stated that he looked for any suspicious transactions that were not consistent with City business and transactions commonly used in craft projects given Butkovich’s side business. 

The flagged transactions over 15 pages date back to March 2017 and end just days before the transactions were discovered in September 2018. 

The police report initially indicated a total of $44,753.27 spent on suspicious transactions, which increased to $67,661.41 after a forensic audit was conducted. 

There were a total of 56 transactions where $203 was withdrawn from an ATM at the Woodstock Bar in Alton. 

Money was also withdrawn at several casinos, including Argosy Casino in Alton, Hollywood Casino in St. Louis and Ruby’s Gambling in Alton. 

According to the police report, Butkovich admitted to gambling, but said she does not believe she has a gambling problem. 

She said she would spend about $100 “every now and again” in a slot machine, but she would never “gamble the house away,” the report states.

She also told detectives that she withdraws money out of her account “like crazy.” She added that she never takes out more than $200, and said she used her own money to gamble. 

However, the police report shows that nearly $3,000 was spent in one day with $1,012 withdrawn from the ATM at the Argosy Casino and $1,032 in purchases at the casino on Aug. 6. There was also $98 spent at Dollar General and $808 withdrawn from Woodstock Bar that same day, which is near Argosy Casino in Alton. 

Butkovich told detectives that purchases made at Lowe’s, Home Depot and Amazon were authorized and were made for employees. She said transactions at restaurants were authorized for the maintenance employees’ birthdays and special events. 

Butkovich also told detectives that the transactions at Hobby Lobby and Dollar Tree were used for City business and not for her craft business. 

In a Sept. 17 update to the police report, Johnson wrote that he met with Wells, Butler, the Board commissioners and City insurance and bonding agent Jeffrey Luken, where they determined that an audit was needed. Luken made an official request for an audit “in order to get an exact amount of monies stolen from the City Levee District debit cards.”

The police report states that Johnson received a complete audit from Gregory Sladek on Oct. 1. 

However, Sladek said the report is mistaken. He said he is a pump operator and would not have conducted an audit. Johnson could not be reached for clarification on the mater. 

According to the report, the audit found that Butkovich obtained $67,661.41 from the Levee District accounts without authorization. 

Prior to police involvement, an audit performed by Donohoo, McCalley and Associates had just been completed for the prior fiscal year and did not report any discrepancies from October 2017 through September 2018. 

Madison County Chairman Kurt Prenzler said “We see from the police report that wrongdoing was taking place for months already.”

Board commissioners Weber and Scott Miller voted to rehire the auditing firm in October. Commissioner Ron Carnell opposed rehiring the firm. 

According to financial reports, Donohoo, McCalley and Associates has been performing the audit for the Wood River Levee District as far back as 1991. 

Prenzler called for an audit performed by an “independent” auditor after the suspicious transactions came to light, and said he was “dissatisfied” that the same firm was rehired for the next fiscal year. 

“It’s important that the Levee District go out and get bids and select a third-party auditing firm to do a forensic audit,” Prenzler said. 

“Best practice is to change auditing firms every five or six years regardless of how well the firm is doing,” he added.

Prenzler said a third-party auditing firm is necessary for fresh eyes to take a look at the financials. He added that it is human nature for an auditing firm to become blind to suspicious transactions when they are looking at the same financials and working with the same group of people for decades. 

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