Harvey county prosecutors have filed formal charges against a woman accused of printing thousands of dollars in free Newton Bucks.
Kayla Tillery, 43, faces forgery and felony theft charges while an employee at the Newton Chamber of Commerce. Investigators said she forged a check in the amount of $5,500 and issued more than $25,000 in Newton Bucks that weren't paid for.
Thousands of dollars in bad Newton Bucks, it's not the talk Newton businesses want to hear.
"It's just been quite a shock to our business community," said Phil Anderson, III, the owner of Anderson's, a general store on Main Street. "And, sure hope that we can pull out from all of this and have a better system."
A program designed to help keep Newton residents spending their money locally, the Newton Bucks are now the victim of theft and forgery.
"Towards the end of January our Chamber treasurer became aware of some irregularities," said Chamber president Jim Schwarzenberger, reading a statement. "At that time we started an internal investigation. In February we terminated our bookkeeper."
Kayla Tillery came to the Newton Chamber of Commerce through a temp agency last year. The Chamber officially hired her in November.
The county attorney says since then she stole at least $25,000 from the Newton Bucks program.
"The investigation in this case is ongoing with the potential to file additional charges prior to the preliminary hearing," said Harvey County Attorney David Yoder.
Authorities say no one else from the Chamber is involved.
Most upsetting to businesses, Tillery had a record in Kansas of committing similar crimes.
"That can't be forgiven," said Anderson. "I just can't understand why the employment services didn't... didn't vet that out."
Anderson is a long time member of both the Chamber and the Newton Bucks program. He just found out about the problems last week.
"We really didn't have a full explanation other than to watch for those checks," he said, pointing to a list of check numbers sent out by the Chamber last Thursday.
The county attorney says the first bad Bucks started showing up in December.
"I want to assure the Chamber membership that I, along with the rest of the Chamber staff, am working closely with the Chamber's executive committee to implement additional safeguards for Newton bucks," said Schwarzenberger.
Schwarzenberger read a prepared statement and didn't take any questions.
A judge set Tillery's bond at $50,000. She will return to court March 28th for a preliminary hearing.
Newton police arrested 43-year-old Kayla Tillery on felony theft charges in connection with an investigation into the Newton Bucks program.