Former Water Co-Op employee charged with embezzling over $10,000

Published 2:22 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Cipy Arrest

A Hampton woman faces a felony theft charge after investigators say she embezzled more than $10,000 from the Watauga River Regional Water Authority / North Elizabethton Water Co-Op while she was employed with the agency.

Officers of the Carter County Sheriff’s Department arrested Lisa Dawn Cipy, 47, of Hampton Monday afternoon on an indictment charging her with theft of property over $10,000. She was also served with two warrants charging her with violation of probation out of Criminal Court and a capias charging her with failure to appear out of General Sessions Court.

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In the indictment, Cipy allegedly embezzled the money from the Watauga River Regional Water Authority / North Elizabethton Water Co-Op between March 1, 2014, and Sept. 11.

The indictment does not list a specific dollar amount for the money taken but said Cipy took control “over monies in an amount of $10,000 or more but less than $60,000.” Under state law, the charge theft of property over $10,000 is a Class C felony.

Auditors with the State of Tennessee’s Comptroller’s Office conducted the investigation into the missing funds. The indictment lists Investigative Auditor Phillip Job as the prosecuting officer in the case. Phone messages left for Job were not returned on Tuesday.

The Comptroller’s Office will release the details of the investigation on May 4, said John Dunn, public information officer with the state Comptroller’s Office.

“Due to notification obligations that must take place prior to the public release of the final report or press release, we will not be sharing any further information until that time,” Dunn said.

Cipy began working for the Water Authority and North Elizabethton Water Co-Op on Nov. 22, 2013, and resigned on Sept. 11, 2014, Water Authority Director Bryon Trantham said.

While Trantham said he could not discuss information regarding the case, he did say the investigation was started by the Comptroller’s Office after an anonymous caller left a tip on the office’s fraud reporting hotline.

“Evidently someone knew Ms. Cipy and her tainted past, so they called and made an anonymous report,” Trantham said.

In response to the tip, investigators with the Comptroller’s Office contacted Trantham and began checking the agency’s finances.

“We cooperated with their investigation,” Trantham said.

During her employment with the Water Authority and North Elizabethton Water Co-Op, Cipy was serving a court-imposed sentence of felony probation after being convicted of possession of Schedule II drugs for resale. Her probation was administered through the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole.

The BOPP filed a warrant charging Cipy with violation of probation with Carter County Criminal Court in November 2014 and the following month filed a probation violation report with the court.

One of the rule violations cited in the warrant for violation of probation alleges Cipy failed to maintain employment, which violated BOPP probation rules. “(Cipy) resigned her position from the North Elizabethton Co-Op after money went missing. The Comptroller’s Office is investigating,” BOPP Officer Melissa Langett said in the report. “(I) called the North Elizabethton Co-Op and spoke with them and (Cipy) was allowed to resign when the accounts were discovered unbalanced.”

Following her arrest on Monday, Cipy was booked into the Carter County Detention Center, where she remains held on a total bond of $36,000. She will appear in Criminal Court to face the theft and violation of probation charges but no court date has been set at this time.

Cipy appeared in General Sessions Court on Tuesday on the failure to appear charge and was sentenced to serve five days in jail. Cipy also entered a guilty plea to a charge of third offense driving on suspended license and was sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay a $50 fine and court costs.