Kansas Bureau of Investigation Agent Clint Hawkins said checks that Central Prairie Honor Flights members thought were written to businesses wound up instead in the banking account of the nonprofit organization’s director, LaVeta Miller. Hawkins testified Wednesday in Barton County District Court, where Miller is on trial for two counts of theft by deception, each greater than $25,000 but less than $100,000.
Central Prairie Honor Flights was a project of Central Prairie RC&D, based in Great Bend. In 2012, board treasurer Stacy Neilson discovered checks in the nonprofit organization’s books did not match checks actually paid at Farmers Bank & Trust. Her testimony took several hours Tuesday and much of Wednesday was spent on cross examination of Neilson.
Barton County Attorney Douglas Mathews then called Agent Hawkins and asked about some of the checks he had reviewed Tuesday in court with witness Neilson.
Based on bank records, Miller was the payee on multiple checks — most over $1,000 and one over $6,000. Based on the group’s books, the payees were entities such as office products stores, catering companies, a cap embroidery business, travel businesses or a printing shop.
People who incurred expenses on behalf of the Honor Flights could be reimbursed, but they had to submit expense vouchers and provide receipts to the board, Hawkins testified. “Fictitious invoices were created to show them as legitimate purchases,” he said, concerning some checks where Miller was the payee.
Hawkins met Miller in October of 2012, before executing a warrant to search her Great Bend home. Hawkins said they found a check with a white-out strip across the payee section and the date.
Hawkins said Miller willingly answered questions when he told her they were doing an investigation concerning RC&D, before producing the warrant. “She was very willing to talk about it.”
But when the evidence seemed to point to her, Miller told Hawkins she was being set up by former Central Prairie RC&D Director Dan Curtis. “He basically said that he was going to try to ruin her,” Hawkins said, recalling what Miller told him.
Defense attorney Robert Anderson began his cross examination of Hawkins late in the afternoon, and it will resume this morning. Miller has maintained her innocence. Anderson has questioned why a KBI expert confirmed Miller’s signatures but didn’t check Neilson’s claim that her signature was forged on some checks.