BECKLEY, W.V. (LOOTPRESS) – In Raleigh County Circuit Court on Wednesday, June 9, 2021, Rhonda Michelle Walker, former director of Raleigh County Parks and Recreation Authority, pled guilty to a sole count indictment, convicting her of felony embezzlement. Judge Robert Burnside presided over the plea hearing.
Walker was arrested on embezzlement charges in May of 2018 after an audit- conducted in Apil in 2018- showed $18,500 missing from the budget. At the time, police said Walker admitted to writing herself and another employee unauthorized pay raises.
According to Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney Ben Hatfield, who represented the state of West Virginia in the case, the embezzlement occurred over a three-year period, from October of 2012 to December of 2015, and totaled $18,539.11.
The original criminal complaint stated that, during the time of the embezzlement, Walker wrote 16 checks to herself and one to a maintenance worker whom she had supervised while at Lake Stephens. These checks were not authorized by the Raleigh County Commission.
Walker said she wrote the checks to “pay for vacation time she didn’t take during the year” and to “giver herself a raise.” She also said she wrote the checks without the consent of the commission.
Walker was arraigned in Raleigh County Magistrate Court in May of 2018. She was indicted in 2019.
By pleading guilty on Wednesday, Walker waived her right to a trial by jury, as well as any and all aspects of a public trial.
Hatfield stated that Walker will remain on bond pending her sentencing, which will occur after an investigation and report has been furnished by the Raleigh County Probation Office.
“It’s always a matter of importance to me and importance to law enforcement when you can tackle public corruption,” Hatfield said. “These are funds that taxpayers pay their hard-earned money to the government and entrust those government officials to use for the betterment of society, and when someone converts them to their personal use, that is a breaking of trust with the public. We want our public to trust our public officials, and when they behave like this, it not only affects that public official, but it affects the trust the goes on between every other public official and their constituents or the citizens they serve.”
Walker’s sentencing hearing is currently scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on July 22, 2021.
Hatfield noted that felony embezzlement carries an indeterminant sentence of not less than one year and no more than 10 years. He said the state can guarantee that they will be asking for full restitution of the embezzled funds at sentencing.
Stay with Lootpress as this story develops.