WALLACE – After initially being charged with seven separate felony counts of misuse of public funds in 2017, former Shoshone County coroner Kelli Jane Garcia, 48, plead guilty to one misdemeanor count on Wednesday.
Idaho Attorney General’s Office public information officer Scott Graf stated in a news release on Thursday that First District Court Judge Scott Wayman withheld judgment, then sentenced Garcia to one year of unsupervised probation with 100 hours of community service. The judge also ordered the defendant to pay a $500 fine and court costs.
“An investigation revealed that while serving as coroner in 2017,” Graf said in the release, “Garcia used a county credit card to make personal purchases while attending out-of-town conferences.”
She later reimbursed the county for the charges, but under Idaho law, any use of public moneys by a public official for personal use is illegal.
According to the criminal complaint provided by the Attorney General’s Office, Garcia was initially charged with violating Idaho Codes 18-5701(10) and 18-5702(2) on seven different occasions.
I.C. 18-5701(10) defines the crime as, “Knowingly using any public moneys, or financial transaction card, financial transaction card account number or credit account issued to or for the benefit of any governmental entity to make any purchase, loan, guarantee or advance of moneys for any personal purpose or for any purpose other than for the use or benefit of the governmental entity.”
18-5702(2) further states that anyone who violates this law “is guilty of a felony punishable by a fine not exceeding $5,000, or by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five (5) years, or by both, if the amount of public moneys misused is less than $300.”
In situations such as this, the determination of whether the charges are misdemeanors or felonies depends not on the amount of money spent (in this case, under $300 in each instance), but the position that the accused holds in the government entity.
It is believed that a plea deal was reached between Garcia and the State, which had her accepting guilt for one misdemeanor charge in exchange for the others being dismissed.
Deputy Attorney General Jessica Kuehn in the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Unit prosecuted the case.