A jury on Monday found former McCallsburg mayor Christopher Erickson, 41, guilty of fraudulent practice in the third degree, an aggravated misdemeanor in violation of Iowa Code 714.11.
The trial lasted six days.
Erickson’s sentencing hearing is at 9 a.m. June 12 in the Story County Courthouse. The maximum sentence for an aggravated misdemeanor is two years in prison and a fine not exceeding $8,540.
Iowa Code 714.8 details 21 different variations of fraud including when a person “makes any entry in or alteration of any public records, or any records of any corporation, partnership, or other business enterprise or nonprofit enterprise, knowing the same to be false.”
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The jury found Erickson not guilty on two other charges − felonious misconduct in office, a class D felony; and tampering with records, an aggravated misdemeanor.
during the first day of the trial on May 16, Erickson’s attorney Michael Lewis focused doubt on the claim that Erickson had falsified city financial records. Former City Clerk Melissa Mattingly took the witness stand and confirmed that a three-ring notebook sat beside the city computer in City Hall which contained software access codes and passwords. All city council members had keys to the office, Mattingly said, until she changed the locks.
“I didn’t trust anyone,” Mattingly said. “I only trusted two council members, Gail Springer and Jackie Meimann. I made sure Chris didn’t have any access to the software system because I didn’t want anything tampered with.”
The charges against Erickson focused on his payments, or alleged lack of payments, for his utility bills, as well as alleged overpayments made to the former city clerk, Jennifer Heithoff, for her payroll checks signed by Erickson.
Heithoff, 53, pleaded guilty in April to second-degree fraudulent practice. She had also been charged with felonious misconduct in office, and tampering with records, the same as Erickson, but the last two charges were dropped in her plea deal.
Heithoff received a suspended prison sentence May 11 of no more than five years and is placed on probation for a maximum of three years. She is ordered to pay a fine of $1,025, a 15% crime services surcharge, and restitution of $42,839. Court costs and attorney fees will also be assessed to Heithoff.
The criminal charges are the result of an Iowa State Auditor’s special investigation covering transactions from 2014 to 2019.
Erickson has been employed by Story County in the secondary roads department as an equipment operator since October, 2009, according to Story County Director of Internal Operations and Human Resources Alissa Wignall.
Teresa Kay Albertson covers politics, crime, courts and local government in Ames and central Iowa for the Ames Tribune and Des Moines Register. Reach her on Twitter @TeresaAlberts11 and at email@example.com, 515-419-6098.
This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Former McCallsburg mayor faces up to two years in prison for fraud