Former Merrillville Town Court clerk enters guilty plea in fed court
By Christin Nance Lazerus email@example.com October 10, 2012 3:00PM
Updated: November 12, 2012 11:52AM
Former Merrillville Town Court clerk Virlissa Crenshaw pleaded guilty to stealing $176,763 in funds from the town and a filing a false tax return at a Wednesday morning hearing at the U.S. District Courthouse in Hammond.
Crenshaw, 42, sat quietly, occasionally wiping away tears, as she answered U.S. District Judge James Moody’s questions during her change-of-plea hearing. Crenshaw didn’t answer with much detail, only responding “because I am guilty” when asked why she was entering this plea.
Crenshaw, an East Chicago resident, was charged last week with stealing cash bonds that were posted by criminal suspects in 2008, as well as misstating her income on her 2009 tax return.
The tax loss to the United States was $55,203 since she stated her income as $43,606 when it was much higher.
She has signed a plea agreement with prosecutors that she will admit to both charges in exchange for the government promising not to prosecute her husband on federal tax charges and recommending she serve the minimum sentence.
Crenshaw could face a maximum of 13 years in prison. The judge will decide whether to accept Crenshaw’s plea agreement at her sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson listed some of the evidence the government has against Crenshaw if she chose to take the case to trial.
Benson mentioned that an attorney was attempting to get back the bond money his client had posted, but Crenshaw kept delaying and she eventually admitted to taking the money.
In a lawsuit filed by the state to reclaim the missing money, it alleges that Crenshaw would sometimes use bond money from one defendant to cover the missing bond of another defendant in order to cover her tracks.
The attorney notified Town Court Judge Gina Jones, who referred the case to the Indiana State Police and State Board of Accounts for investigation.
The SBOA audit found $310,325 in missing bond payments, traffic tickets and ordinance violations, and said there could have been more money missing but some receipts had been shredded.
Crenshaw’s attorney Jerome Flynn issued a statement on his client’s behalf after the hearing.
“Virlissa is a nice person who made some bad decisions, and she’s accepting responsibility,” Flynn said.