Published January 23. 2014 4:00PM Updated January 23. 2014 8:55PM
A former employee of the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority is facing allegations that she embezzled more than $44,000 using an elaborate scheme to shift money between customer accounts.
Stephanie Hodge, 48, of Groton was charged Jan. 17 with first-degree larceny after turning herself in to state police. Detectives with the state police Eastern District Major Crime Squad had investigated the case and secured a warrant for her arrest.
Police say Hodge had worked for the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority since 2003 as a customer clerk at their office in Gales Ferry. Suspended without pay on Jan. 11, 2013, Hodge had been under suspicion of stealing following revelations of misappropriated money discovered in a forensic audit. Hodge had access to a billing computer used to shift money into different customer accounts, police said.
Between April 15, 2012, and Jan. 11, 2013, police said $18,502 was misappropriated. The projected total loss to the water company between July 1, 2011, and Jan. 11, 2013, was $44,478, police said.
State police said they obtained a confession from Hodge last summer, following an interview with police Detectives John Jette and Chris Greer.
Hodge said that at first she took some money to get her car fixed, according to the arrest warrant affidavit in the case. She said she had intended to return the money, but the bills kept coming and “everything snowballed,” she told police.
Hodge said the theft “was not a planned out thing,” according to the affidavit.
Police said Hodge would receive a cash payment at the customer window, credit the customer’s account but make offsetting charges to an inactive account to balance the transaction to zero. The adjustment allowed the cash to be misappropriated without alerting the paying customer or cause an overdue notice to be issued, police said.
In December 2012, police said information provided to the auditor about the missing funds, including a binder full of documents, payments books and receipt books that were in Hodge’s desk, turned up missing from the Gales Ferry office. While police have not said whether they suspect Hodge in the theft, Hodge admitted visiting the office on Dec. 23, 2012, a Sunday, and was captured in surveillance camera footage entering and leaving the building. Hodge told a co-worker she went to the office to retrieve a gift card for a family member, police said.
Hodge is free on a $150,000 non-surety bond and is due to appear Jan. 31 in New London Superior Court.