TABIONA, Duchesne County — A former town clerk could face as many as 144 felony charges after authorities say a brief investigation revealed that she stole more than $140,000 from the small community's coffers.

Angela Betty Curry, who is the wife of a Duchesne County sheriff's deputy, was arrested earlier this week for investigation of 72 counts of theft and 72 counts of forgery. Curry, 36, made her initial appearance Thursday in 8th District Court, where she is charged with 15 counts of theft and 15 counts of forgery. The charges are all third-degree felonies.

Duchesne County sheriff's deputies were contacted Monday by Tabiona Mayor Ronnie Giles, who handed over 72 checks that had been forged by Curry, charging documents state. The checks — bearing the forged signatures of Giles and another town council member — were endorsed by Curry and deposited into her bank account, according to investigators.

Curry declined to speak to deputies when confronted with the alleged theft, instead invoking her right to an attorney.

"I feel like she's slapped everybody in the whole town and community right in the face," said Tabiona Town Councilman Rick Wilberg. "I don't know whether to cry or get mad. I'm ready to stop by the side of the road and slap a horse or something."

Wilberg said town leaders have asked Curry repeatedly to provide them with bank statements for the municipality's accounts.

"She'd tell us, 'Oh, I've given them to our CPA to audit them,' " Wilberg said. "She kept having excuses and hiding all the bank statements. She was very convincing."

Curry became the town clerk about four years ago after her mother-in-law, who held the position, was elected to the town council, where she still serves. She is the second clerk for the remote town, with about 300 residents, to be charged with stealing public funds.

In April 2003, Graceann Hiseman, 43, pleaded guilty to felony charges of unlawful dealing with property by a fiduciary and forgery. Her pleas were later dismissed as part of an agreement with prosecutors after she repaid the town $111,735.

Wilberg said officials thought they had implemented sufficient safeguards to prevent a repeat of the Hisemen situation, including requiring all checks to bear the signatures of the mayor and one designated councilman.

"We figured we had that done," he said. "But (Curry) forged the mayor and the councilman's signatures on the checks."

Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote said he is handing Curry's case over to the Uintah County Attorney's Office for prosecution because of her husband's position at the Duchesne County Jail. Foote said Uintah County prosecutors could file additional charges against Curry.

The sheriff's office has also turned over its criminal probe to the Vernal Police Department for additional investigation, according to Duchesne County Sheriff Travis Mitchell.

Curry's husband is not believed to be involved in the alleged criminal activity. He has taken time off from work to take care of the couple's children but has not been placed on formal leave, Mitchell said.

"We just told him if he needed some time to get things sorted out to take it, and he chose to take some time off," the sheriff said. "As of today we don't have any indication or cause to believe that he is involved with (the alleged crimes)."

Curry is being held in the Uintah County Jail. Her bail is set at $150,000.

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