UPDATE: Former Chamber Employee Charged With More Theft

By: KAKE News Email
By: KAKE News Email
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UPDATE: Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kayla Tillery, a former Newton Chamber of Commerce employee, is charged with unlawfully printing and spending Newton Bucks. She accused of stealing $25,000 dollars from the Chamber.

Now, she's facing 12 new charges. Eleven of them are felony theft charges. She's accused of using a Chamber of Commerce credit card to pay her bills.

"To pay things such as utility bills from the Chamber's credit card account, which is separate from the Newton Bucks account,” Harvey County Attorney David Yoder said.

In total, Tillery is accused of spending $1,400 on the credit card. Because of Tillery's previous theft convictions, the charges are all automatically felonies.

The Chamber's executive director tells us Tillery was hired through a temp agency and at the time, they believed her record was clean.

"Well we place a lot of trust in individuals we hire and I think we should do that. So when you have someone that you've trusted that would betray that trust, there's a lot of concern not only at the Chamber but in the community,” Chamber Executive Director Jim Schwarzenberger said.

But Schwarzenberger says Tillery's arrest and the charges against her won't keep the Chamber or the Newton Bucks program from supporting local businesses.

"We have a very resilient community, we have a very resilient Chamber of Commerce and I firmly believe we're going to come through this stronger,” Schwarzenberger said.

If convicted on all charges, depending on her criminal history Kayla Tillery could face anywhere from six to 20 years in prison.

UPDATE: Wednesday, March 20, 2013

New information has been released in the arrest of a woman in connection to the theft of money from the Newton Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, officers arrested 43-year-old Kayla Tillery of Newton for her alleged involvement in printing illegal 'Newton Bucks' that had not been paid for to the Chamber.

This afternoon, formal criminal charges were filed against Tillery for alleging the forgery of a check in the name of the Chamber in the amount of $5,000 and the theft of over $25,000 from the Chamber.

"It's hard to believe that would happen but if that person had access to the material and didn't handle it correctly, I can understand that," said Phil Anderson, participant in the Newton Bucks program. "It's just a tough time for the whole program because it's been so popular."

A Newton Chamber of Commerce newsletter for January 2013 showed Tillery was recently hired as an operations specialist and program coordinator. She was responsible for the Newton Bucks program and had been employed with the Chamber from November 2012 to February 2013.

Tillery has previously served time for numerous counts of forgery, theft and criminal use of a financial card in three Kansas counties and in Arizona. She was last discharged in February 2009.

UPDATE: 6:55 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, 2013

KAKE News has learned that an arrest has been made in connection to this case.

Lt. Eric Murphy says a 43-year-old woman who worked at the Newton Chamber of Commerce was taken into custody Tuesday. The Lieutenant says the woman was printing off the Newton bucks and handing them out to family and friends without collecting money.

The Harvey County Attorney's Office is expected to release more information about the case Wednesday.

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Since last week, the Newton Police Department has been conducting a criminal investigation involving the Newton Chamber of Commerce.

Lt. Eric Murphy confirmed to KAKE News that there is a criminal investigation underway. Information has been turned over to Harvey County Attorney David Yoder's office.

Yoder said that someone at the Chamber has been stealing "Newton Bucks," which are like cash. A "substantial amount of money is involved."

He said the suspect has been identified in this case and wanted to make clear that it is not the executive director.

Jim Schwarzenberger, Executive Director of the Newton Chamber of Commerce said the organization is "aware of the investigation, and are cooperating, but we have no further comment."

The Newton Kansan newspaper reported Friday that Schwarzenberger announced his intention to retire April 1.

Yoder expects to file criminal charges later this week.

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