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More than $200K missing from Goshen clerk's accounts

TORRINGTON – An affidavit filed in Eighth Judicial Circuit Court by Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation agent Michael Carlson alleges that Former Goshen County District Court Clerk Kathi Rickard began embezzling money from the court’s two checking accounts almost as soon as she took office in July 2014.

Rickard took over for Bonnie Petsch in July 2014, and was elected in 2014 and 2018.

The affidavit shows that the discrepancies in the office’s accounts started small, at a few hundred dollars in 2014, but quickly escalated to the point that Rickard was allegedly stealing thousands of dollars per month throughout most of her time as an elected official. During the time Rickard was in office, $209,228.86 disappeared from the office’s accounts, the affidavit said.

Rickard made her first appearance in court last week and could be facing up to 60 years in prison, if she is convicted on all six felony theft charges which she is accused. She is currently out of jail after Judge Randal Arp issued a $150,000 unsecured bond, which would allow her to remain out of jail to receive proper medical care for a litany of health issues.

According to the Affidavit of Probable Cause filed by Carlson, an investigation was launched into the Eighth Judicial District Court’s books after then-deputy clerk Brandi Correa approached Goshen County Attorney Eric Boyer to notify him that a pair of checks issued by the court had been returned and marked NSF – non-sufficient funds.

Correa, now the Clerk of District Court, looked into the issue, and found the more than $100,000 was missing from the office’s bank accounts, which were maintained and administered by Rickard. Carlson then obtained and executed a search warrant for the office’s accounts, and turned the findings over to an auditor.

Carlson learned that the office used two checking accounts, known as WYUSER and QuickBooks in the office.

“Upon completing his analysis, the auditor determined that between July 2014 and December 2018, approximately $58,678.28 in cash was missing from the WYUSER account and approximately $150,550.59 in cash was missing from the QuickBooks account,” the affidavit said. “The total of all the missing cash was $209,228.86.”

The auditor’s report showed that the first significant differences in the accounts began to show up in the summer of 2014 – when Rickard took over for the previous clerk. From June until December 2014, $9,445.49 went missing from the QuickBooks account.

The auditor’s report showed a difference in cash deposits to cash received nearly every month from the time Rickard took office in 2014 until December 2018. In 2014, there was a difference of $288 from the WYUSR account, and $9,445.49 was missing from the QuickBooks account. There were only negligible losses from WYUSER in 2015, but $10,856.39 was missing from QuickBooks. In 2016, WYUSER was $6,100 short, and QuickBooks was $20,269.67 short.

Greater sums disappeared from the court clerk’s accounts in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, QuickBooks was missing $51,320.09, and WYUSER was missing $21,413.94. In 2018, QuickBooks was $31,501.39 short, and WYUSER was $58,658.94 short.

In November and December 2018, Rickard’s last months as clerk before the investigation, the accounts were missing a total of $8,709.32. She resigned from her post in February, citing medical issues as the reason.

According to the affidavit, Carlson interviewed Rickard on Jan. 24. She told him that the checks could have been returned because on occasion funds were deposited into the wrong account on accident. When Carlson asked about the pair of checks that were returned NSF, Rickard said she couldn’t explain it.

“Rickard said that she didn’t understand why funds were not available,” the affidavit said.

“Rickard recalled a civil case where a large check was provided to the Clerk’s Office to be held until the case was resolved. Rickard was surprised to find out that approximately $100,000 was missing from the account,” the affidavit said. “Rickard couldn’t understand why the money wasn’t there because the only way the money could be dispersed was by the order of the judge, and the order to release the funds had not been issued.

“Rickard also thought it was ‘weird;’ that cash had been discovered missing from the deposits made into the WYUSER accounts,” the affidavit said.

During the course of the investigation, Rickard allegedly admitted to taking “some of the money,” the affidavit said.

“Rickard was curious as to the exact dollar amount that was missing. Numerous times after admitting responsibility for the missing cash, Rickard said she was sorry and asked how she was going to be able to pay it back.”

According to the affidavit, “Rickard said most of the money was used to pay bills, rent and cell phone bills for one of her daughters, whom she declined to identify.”

Rickard told Carlson she knew she wasn’t authorized to take the money.

“She claimed she had intentions of paying the money back,” the affidavit said. “Rickard claimed to have made cash deposits, as repayments, into the court accounts. Rickard didn’t know the exact amounts of when the cash repayments took place.”

The only specific incident listed in the affidavit was in Aug. 2018. Correa received a $5,000 cash payment, and “the payment was entered into the WYUSER system and a receipt was given,” the affidavit said.

“Deputy Clerk Correa told me she placed the funds into the deposit bag to be taken to the bank. According to Deputy Clerk Correa, Rickard took the deposit to the bank. Around January 2019, when Correa reviewed the actual deposits for the WYUSER and QuickBooks accounts, the $5,000 bond was never deposited into the bank.”

Rickard’s next court date had not been set at press time. The prosecution will be handled by special prosecutor Spencer Allred of Lincoln County.

During the Goshen County Board of Commissioners meeting on July 2, Goshen County Attorney Eric Boyer said the county is planning to seek restitution for the funds, and that it plans on invoking its $10,000 bond on the office. The county paid more than $100,000 to make the accounts current, he said.

“We have no thoughts that it will be denied,” Boyer said. “We’ve also filed an insurance claim with the county’s insurer, and we’re honestly not sure if they’re going to deny that or not.

"The county is also simultaneously pursuing a conversation with the Wyoming Insurance Commissioner about that potential insurance claim, if that claim is denied.”