‘Struggling’ town lost $663,600 as Missouri city clerks used funds to gamble, feds say
UPDATE: The former assistant city clerk accused of embezzling from a Missouri city pleaded guilty to mail fraud and wire fraud on Feb. 7, according to court records.
“Ms. (Donna) Thompson pled guilty this morning and has accepted responsibility for her actions,” defense attorney Steve Williams said in an email to McClatchy News. “We’ll have more to say when we address the Court at sentencing in May.”
The original story is below.
A city clerk and an assistant city clerk of a “small, struggling” city in Missouri embezzled about $663,604, then used those stolen funds to gamble, pay their rent and for other personal expenses, according to federal authorities.
The two Flordell Hills clerks — who shared a home together in Florissant — stole the money by writing about 614 checks to themselves and wiring city funds, authorities said in court records.
Now one of the women has pleaded guilty to mail fraud and wire fraud, according to a Feb. 6 news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri.
In pleading guilty, Maureen Woodson admitted that she stole some of the money from about February 2016 to April 2022 while working as the city clerk. She said she did so alongside assistant city clerk Donna Thompson.
Woodson and Thomspon were indicted in August, authorities said. Thompson originally pleaded not guilty, but she has a hearing to change her plea scheduled for Feb. 7.
In a statement to McClatchy News, the defense attorney representing Woodson said “she has accepted responsibility and is very remorseful.”
“Unfortunately, this case is an example of what can happen when you have a severe gambling addiction,” attorney Dan Juengel continued. “Mrs. Woodson is 68, she is a widow, a mother and up until this situation had no criminal history. She has been gainfully employed throughout her life. Currently, she is in weekly group therapy for her gambling addiction and sees an individual counselor at the recommendation of the pretrial office. She is progressing in therapy and has completely eliminated any access to gambling from her life.”
In her signed plea agreement, Woodson, 68, said about 368 of the checks were made out to her. Because the checks also required the signature of the mayor or treasurer, she would forge their signatures, authorities said.
She also used wire transfers to send money from the Flordell Hills bank to third party vendors, officials said.
In total, Woodson admitted to defrauding the city of $487,673.
In addition to making rent payments and gambling with the stolen funds, authorities said the clerks used the money to pay the taxes they owed to the Internal Revenue Service, go out to eat and for other entertainment.
Woodson was hired by the city in 2010 and fired in May, officials said. Thomspon, 75, was hired in 2012 before she was also fired in May.
Flordell Hills has an annual budget of about $400,000, authorities said, and about 800 people live in the community. It is part of the St. Louis metropolitan area.
Woodson’s sentencing is scheduled for May 16, records show. She faces up to 40 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Authorities said she’ll also be expected to pay the city back.
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