TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - A Sullivan County, Indiana couple faces federal corruption charges on allegations they used their long-held positions in township government to defraud taxpayers of thousands of dollars.
Jefferson Township trustee Frank Mejean, 51, and his wife Township Clerk Antonnette Mejean, 48, each face three federal charges of wire fraud. The two made their first appearances in Federal court Thursday afternoon. During their hearing, the couple also asked to be represented by a public defender.
According to the indictment against them, the two overpaid themselves thousands of dollars with township funds. Between 2009 and 2012, they are accused of overpaying Frank Mejean by $47,107.79 and overpaying Antonnette Mejean by $23,871.82. They are also accused of overpaying a lawn care contract with Antonnette by $22,427.40, and they are accused of funneling township money into Frank Mejean's plumbing business.
The couple has been accused of overpaying themselves before. A 2006 report from the Indiana State Board of Accounts includes findings of several overpayments. In a hand-written note included in the report Ms. Mejean acknowledged that she overpaid the salaries, but she said the overpayment was caused by an accounting error on her part.
Another report by the Board of Accounts issued in 2009 listed more overpayments which had been paid back by the Mejeans. In a note included in that report, the Mejeans wrote that "errors on bookkeeping were not intentionally done." They also said they would resign from office at the end of a term on December 31, 2010. Authorities said Thursday that resignation never happened.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Sullivan County Prosecutor Robert Hunley said his office had been performing its own investigation into the couple when they were contacted by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The couple was released on their own recognizance, although the court ordered that any further expenditures of Jefferson Township funds which either Frank or Antonnette Mejean make will have to also be approved by the chair of the township board. Officials with the Board of Accounts said they will also oversee township spending through powers granted by new state laws.
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