ELYRIA — A former employee of the Lorain County Emergency Management Agency has been indicted on charges of theft in office.
Alice Webber, 54, of Amherst, was charged with two third-degree felony counts of theft in office, a count of fourth-degree theft and another for forgery, according to a secret indictment unsealed Wednesday.
Webber had served as emergency operations manager for the Emergency Management Agency until her resignation in the spring. Webber allegedly wrote checks to herself from an account the EMA controlled and cashed them.
Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said Webber allegedly stole approximately $60,000.
County Administrator Jim Cordes said the funds Webber allegedly stole were not county funds.
“I was the one that called the Sheriff’s Department in once I learned there were some checks that were cashed that had a fraudulent signature on them and weren’t authorized,” Cordes said. “Apparently, it was multiple checks from an account they used for emergency management that works between the various jurisdictions in Lorain County.”
According to Tom Kelley, Lorain County Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security director, the funds were from the county’s Local Emergency Planning Committee, which is responsible for the handling of hazardous chemicals in the county along with the operations of the county’s Technical Response Team.
The committee and group are funded by each jurisdiction — cities, villages and townships — within the county with the exception of the city of Lorain, according to Kelley. Each jurisdiction’s share of the funding is based on its population.
“That money was in our office in a checkbook,” Kelley said. “We pay for all the equipment, calibrations and the upkeep of the response capabilities. It’s alleged that she wrote checks to herself from that fund.”
Kelley said he received a call from the bank telling him that it had noticed “something odd with the amount of money in those checks.” He said the checks were supposedly being cashed at a gas station.
Cordes said the checks were cashed with Kelley’s signature on them, but Kelley said he hadn’t signed them.
After Kelley received the call, he immediately reported it to Cordes, who then contacted the Sheriff’s Department. An investigation ensued.
Kelley said Webber resigned from her position the following week.
According to the indictment, Webber allegedly wrote the checks from January 2016 until May 31, 2018. Cordes said there were several such checks written.
The counts of theft in office on the indictment also include stipulations of withholding of retirement benefits for restitution.
“You have to put that on notice when someone commits an offense involving their job or profession that’s related to their pension,” Will said. “You have to put them on notice that you would be utilizing that to seek restitution.”