Oak Park clerk arraigned on embezzlement charges
An Oak Park treasury clerk was arraigned in 45th District Court Wednesday afternoon on embezzlement and counterfeiting charges.
Shemika Terry, 32, was charged with embezzlement by an agent or trustee, between $20,000 and $50,000, which is a 10-year felony, and possession of counterfeit notes with intent to utter or publish, a 7-year felony, according to Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.
Judge David Gubow set a personal bond at $50,000. Terry returns to court June 9 for a probable cause hearing.
Terry has been suspended with pay, Oak Park city manager Erik Tungate said, while the investigation continues. Terry’s attorney, Jerome Barney, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Cooper said Terry’s alleged theft took place between April 29 and May 3; Oak Park city manager Erik Tungate said it took place on a Friday, which would mean the alleged offense took place April 29.
This is the second incident of alleged embezzlement Oak Park has dealt with in as many years. In the first, former deputy city clerk Stephanie Sumner was convicted of stealing some $430,000 in a prolonged, phony check-writing scheme with her husband. Michael Sumner was sentenced to just under a year at the Oakland County Jail. Stephanie Sumner is scheduled to be sentenced in September.
Oak Park got all its lost money back due to its insurance agreement, Tungate said.
After the Sumner incident the city “instituted a variety of additional layers of security that were put in to place to identify fraudulent or negligent activities,” Tungate said. These included using an armored-car service to review cash deposits before taking them to the bank, he said.
That review, along with other security measures, helped the city uncover the alleged improprieties “within hours.”
Terry had been working for the city for the last two and a half years, Tungate said. During Terry’s first year with the city she was a contract employee via staffing service Ajilon. Then she was hired directly by the city.
The trust she built over time made the city look past financial red flags in her history when hiring her to a position that handles money, Tungate said.
Public records show Terry filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and had several court judgments against her totaling more than $11,000.
But the city accounted for that when it hired her, Tungate said.
“There’s probably not anyone — or not very many people — who hadn’t struggled a bit after the Great Recession,” said Tungate, city manager since 2012. “Did it create a red flag? Of course. But we don’t eliminate people based solely on (financial troubles). My personal philosophy is to give people a second chance.”
Detroit News Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.