Federal Grand Jury Indicts Local City Clerk
A St. Louis federal grand jury today issued an indictment of fraud and embezzlement against the former city clerk of Center, MO.
According to a news release, the indictment charges 48-year-old Tracey Ray with wire fraud and federal program theft. It claims that Ray stole money from the town of Center and its taxpayers, charging up to $202,000 of personal expenses like trips, entertainment and hair salons. The indictment also alleges that among other things, she pocketed money from residents who paid their bills in cash at the Center City Hall. The investigation puts the total theft and embezzlement at $317,325.59.
The initial investigation of the case led to a July 2, 2019 confrontation with Ray at her home. She was shot by Ralls County deputies after she allegedly fired a gun at officers.
Tracey Ray is married to former Center, MO Police Chief David Ray, who resigned in the wake of efforts by members of the city council to fire Ray, along with the firing of Ray’s wife, former City Clerk Tracey Ray, on July 3rd.
Here is the complete news release:
A federal grand jury indicted Tracey Ray, on November 5, 2020. The 48-year-old Center, Missouri resident is charged with wire fraud and federal program theft. Ray was arrested on November 17, 2020 and had her initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge David D. Noce on November 18, 2020.
According to the indictment, Center is a city located in Ralls County, in northeast Missouri. Ray was the City Clerk of Center, Missouri. In her position, Ray was responsible for collecting and receipting all monies received by the city, paying the bills for the city and had full access to the city’s several bank accounts. Ray was authorized to sign checks on the city’s bank accounts. She received and reconciled the monthly bank statements on those accounts. She was also responsible for posting the city’s financial transactions to its computerized accounting system and preparing financial reports for the Board of Aldermen.
Beginning in or about January, 2015 and continuing through on or about July 3, 2019, Ray engaged in a scheme to defraud and obtain money from Center, Missouri in an approximate amount of $317,325.59, by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises.
As part of her fraudulent scheme, on approximately 30 occasions, Ray used Center bank funds to pay for charges on her personal GM credit card. Center funds used to pay for personal charges on Ray’s GM credit card totaled approximately $206,342.53, and were for such personal expenses as retail vendor charges, entertainment, lodging and travel, hair salons, restaurants and grocery store charges. These personal credit card payments were made either by Ray’s issuance of Center bank checks, or by Ray’s wire transfer of Center bank funds. Further, through these unauthorized credit card charges and payments, Ray earned and spent an additional approximately $1,911.00 in reward funds. On approximately 39 occasions, defendant Ray issued Center bank account checks in the approximate total amount of $62,537.76 to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to pay for the premiums on a family health insurance policy, as well as on life and disability policies for her and her family members.
As a further part of her scheme, Ray issued five additional Center payroll checks to herself in the total amount of approximately $3,580.00, depositing each of those checks into her own personal bank account. On 49 occasions, Ray issued checks on one or more City bank accounts, in the total approximate amount of $35,546.85, to directly pay for the purchases of personal items and services unrelated to the legitimate business and operations of Center. Ray issued these Center checks to make personal purchases at a number of retailers, such as Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Walmart, and Hobby Lobby, as well as to pay for her personal residential mortgage and personal insurance policies. She also issued one or more of these Center checks to her family members, unrelated to the legitimate business and operations of Center.
Further, Ray, as Center’s City Clerk, received cash payments from Center residents for various city charges, but Ray failed to deposit those cash receipts into the appropriate Center bank account. Instead, Ray used those cash proceeds, in the total amount of approximately $7,407.45, for her own personal use, unrelated to the legitimate business and operations of Center without the knowledge and authority of Center and its Board of Aldermen. In order to conceal her scheme from Center and its Board of Aldermen, Ray falsified the cash balances of one or more Center bank accounts on financial reports she prepared for monthly Board of Aldermen meetings. Ray also prepared false and incomplete lists of bills to be paid which she submitted for monthly Board of Aldermen meetings.
Further, Ray falsified internal Center financial accounting records to make it appear that the unauthorized checks and wires she issued from Center bank accounts were made to legitimate third party vendors who had purportedly provided actual services or materials to Center.
Charges set forth in the indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty. The charge of wire fraud carries a maximum prison term of 20 years and a maximum fine of $250,000. The charge of federal program theft carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and a maximum fine of $250,000. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the assistance of the Missouri State Auditor’s Office and Ralls County Sheriff’s Office, investigated the case. Assistant United States Attorney Hal Goldsmith is handling the case.