Madison Co: Two-way radio sold on eBay started fraud investigation

MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (WTVQ) – A now-former Madison County employee is accused of stealing more than $340,000 from county taxpayers and it’s been going on for more than nine years, according to the findings of a county audit released Wednesday.

It was first noticed on eBay just a few months, according to the county’s Judge-Executive. A Madison County contractor was shopping around on the online auction site and noticed a walkie-talkie for sale.

The radio for sale,looked exactly like the radios that Madison County police officers and first responders use. According to the eBay listing, the ‘Item Location’ was listed as Berea, Ky. 

“It threw up a red flag,” Madison County’s Judge-Executive Reagan Taylor said. “[The contractor] actually tried to purchase the radio. But once the person on the other side that was selling the radio saw who it was trying purchasing [the radio], they would not let the purchase happen. “

Madison County’s former EMA Finance Director Tamara Phelps is accused of selling that radio and many more items online, Taylor says. She was fired after charges of fraud were filed against her earlier this month.

The county says the audit found that this wasn’t the first time Phelps had stolen items from taxpayers. The county thinks she’d been doing it for almost a decade and, until recently, it has gone completely unnoticed.

“The thing that bothers me more than anything, that this finance officer got by with it since April of 2006,” Taylor says. “We had a serious lack of financial accountability.”

According to state police, Phelps was filling out purchase orders for various items, forging the EMA director’s signature on them and then taking the items and selling them.

Items like iPads and cell phones are among the most recently sold items, according to Phelps’ eBay seller history. She’s also accused of using some of the counties’ money for things like car repairs and home goods. 

The fallout is now reaching up the management chain. On Monday, the county announced it had suspended EMA Director Carl Richards.

The Judge-Executive says there is no indication that Richards is involved, but did say he failed to notice the budget discrepancies.

ABC 36 News attempted to reach out to the EMA Director. All phone numbers we had, and that were listed publicly, forwarded directly to Madison County’s E911 dispatch center.

The Judge-Executive says they are considering asking the state to audit every Madison County department.

Phelps paid $50,000 cash to bond out of jail on May 8th. State police say they’re still investigating and Phelps could face even more charges.

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