June 12, 2007
LANSING - Attorney General Mike Cox today announced that former Alcona County Treasurer Thomas A. Katona was sentenced to 9-14 years for his embezzlement of more than $1.2 million in county funds in a Nigerian fraud scheme.
"Today's sentence represents the final chapter in a very unfortunate and unusual case," said Cox. "The defendant's actions are unthinkable and indefensible. I want to thank the staff in my office, the Alcona County Prosecutor, Michigan State Police, and the Michigan Department of Treasury for their hard work during this unique and complex case."
Embezzlement allegations against Katona were brought to the attention of the Attorney General's Office in mid-November 2006 while Katona was still serving as the Alcona County Treasurer. It was discovered by bank personnel that Katona had wired approximately $150,000 of Alcona County funds to banks in Taiwan and England. An audit by the Michigan Department of Treasury in December 2006 discovered a shortage of $1,236,700 in the county funds for the calendar year of 2006. This was approximately 25% of the county budget.
Search warrant executions and interviews of witnesses disclosed that Katona was involved in a "Nigerian" fraud scheme. In June 2006, Katona was wiring money from his personal account to the same banks and was warned by bank officials and by county employees that he might be involved in a "Nigerian" fraud scheme. He ignored these warnings. During November 2006, Katona flew to London, England, to pick up money from the scheme and notified a local bank in Harrisville to reactivate an old account of his and that he was to receive millions of dollars shortly. This money did not materialize.
On January 17, 2007, Thomas Katona was arraigned on the following charges:
· Eight counts of embezzlement by a public official, a 10-year maximum sentence;
· One count of attempted embezzlement by a public official, a 5-year maximum sentence; and,
· Two counts of forgery, a 14-year maximum sentence.
On May 8, 2007, the defendant pled guilty to all counts before Judge William F. Myles, of the 23rd Circuit Court for the County of Alcona.
This morning, Judge Myles sentenced Katona and found his conduct egregious and devastating to the County of Alcona and to all of the citizens of Alcona County. Katona received a sentence of 6-10 years on eight counts of embezzlement by a public official over $50, 3-5 years on one count of attempted embezzlement by a public official over $50, and 9-14 years on two counts of forgery. These sentences are at or near the statutory maximum. Judge Myles found substantial and compelling reasons to depart upward from the sentencing guidelines that would apply in the "typical" embezzlement case.