TERRE HAUTE —
Two former Sullivan County officials intend to plead guilty to three counts of wire fraud after a grand jury indictment in April, U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Hogsett said Tuesday at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Terre Haute.
Frank Mejean, 51, and his wife, Antonnette Mejean, 48, had been employees of Jefferson Township in Sullivan County. Frank Mejean was the elected township trustee, and his wife served as township clerk and township investigator.
“We began an investigation as a result of questionable filings that the township trustee was making with the [Indiana] State Board of Accounts,” Hogsett said.
Both officials have resigned their elected and appointed positions, Hogsett said.
Frank Mejean served as township trustee from January 2009 to April 2013. He also hired his wife for a lawn maintenance contract with the township.
Hogsett said federal charging documents unsealed in April allege the pair “engaged in a scheme to defraud taxpayers by overpaying their annual salaries and by overcompensating Antonnette in the lawn maintenance contract … and also alleged in the grand jury indictment that the two defendants engaged in a scheme to submit false financial documents to the Indiana State Board of Accounts in an effort to cover up the alleged improper expenditures they were making,” Hogsett said.
In addition, Hogsett said it is alleged the couple used township funds to pay for personal expenses and also funneled township funds into a business owned by Frank Mejean known as Frank Mejean Plumbing.
The total amount of personal expenses the Mejeans were paid from Jefferson Township funds from 2010 to 2012 was $37,091. In 2009, Frank Mejean received about $23,143 in salary payments from the township. His approved salary was $9,800. His salary was also overpaid in 2011 and 2012. The total salary overpayments from 2009 to 2012 totaled $34,033.
The total loss to the township from the Mejeans’ alleged misconduct from 2009 through 2012 was $124,437, which includes auditing costs of $21,132.
However, the Mejeans have reimbursed the township for the total amount of their alleged embezzlements in 2009, Hogsett said, and an additional $32,249 for embezzlements in 2010 and 2011. “Thus, the total restitution figure is $61,064.63,” court documents state.
If the plea is accepted by the federal court, the pair face a maximum of 20 years in federal prison. However, Hogsett said the maximum sentence is unlikely, as the court will consider factors such as their plea, accepting responsibility, and other federal sentencing guidelines.
“It really doesn’t matter at what level of government that you serve, whether elected or appointed, if you possess a position of public trust and if you violate that trust, as the Mejeans are alleged to have done here … you will be identified, you will investigated and you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Hogsett said.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.