FILE - Scales of justice
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(The Center Square) – The former city clerk of Center, Mo., was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison Wednesday and ordered to repay the city $314,889.59 after pleading guilty to fraud and obtaining about $315,000.

U.S. District Court Judge Rodney W. Sippel sentenced Tracey Ray, 48, after she admitted using Center bank funds to pay for $206,342.53 in charges on her personal credit card and a GM credit card for a wide range of personal expenses. She earned and spent approximately $1,911 in rewards from the credit card.

Ray also admitted to issuing checks worth $35,546.85 to pay for purchases of personal items and services. She received cash payments of $7,407.45 from Center residents for various city charges and spent the money on personal items.

Auditor Nicole Galloway credited a 2020 audit performed by her office for detecting Ray’s scheme. It was reported through the state auditor’s whistleblower hotline.

"Tracey Ray abused her position of public trust by stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the taxpayers of this small town, but she didn't get away with it because of our audit," Galloway said in a statement. "I am proud of the work done by the Public Corruption and Fraud Division in my office to uncover this theft and then to work with local and federal law enforcement to bring about justice in this case."

In addition to the auditor’s office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Ralls County Sheriff Office investigated the case. The federal charges were the result of more than $10,000 in federal grant funds deposited into Center’s bank accounts between January 2015 and continuing through July 2019, the period Ray was diverting money for her personal use.

This article originally ran on thecentersquare.com.

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