Palmyra officials facing felony fraud charges

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by Chelsea Rabideau

WHAS11.com

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 6:51 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 16 at 12:28 AM

PALMYRA, In. (WHAS) --  A shake up in the town of Palmyra, Indiana and now several current and former town officials are facing felony charges. A Harrison County grand jury handed down the charges of welfare fraud and official misconduct Thursday. Five people are included in the indictment, a former town manager, town clerk/treasurer, two board members, and the spouse of a board member.

The string of indictments in essence wiped out the governing body of Palmyra. Authorities say Virginia Kirkham, a town board member, convinced other members to make payments to her husband for cleaning and beautician work that she was really doing. All the while, the indictment claims she was still taking thousands of dollars in government assistance.

Those who face charges along with Kirkham and her husband Ron Byerly include, former town manager Cheri Banet, current clerk/treasurer Tiffany Cardwell, and board member Paul Eveslage. Residents of the small town have been stunned to learn about what was going on. One woman said, “I’ve lived here my whole life and most everybody I know here is very honest and dedicated so that’s very surprising to me.”

Schalk believes the board went along with the scheme until one member, Alvin Brown, finally put an end to it. “He was the whistle blower. He made a report with the Sheriff’s department and ultimately that led to the investigation,” said Schalk. Brown will not face charges. “Even if they knew about it, or should have known about it, we don’t want to punish the whistle blower,” Schalk explained.  

The county chose to use a grand jury in this situation, it’s a rare choice. But, they did so because they say these officials were elected by their peers and now they’ll be either acquitted or convicted by their peers as well.

A date for an initial hearing will be set in the near future.

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