By Doug Ireland
---- — BRENTWOOD — Four months after authorities launched an investigation, a former Rockingham County jail office administrator has been charged with stealing at least $12,000 in county money.
Anne Marie Nelson, 54, of 14 Parker Road in Chester was indicted by a Rockingham County Superior Court grand jury on two theft counts for padding the paycheck of her husband, former correctional officer Keith Nelson, according to County Attorney James Reams.
The sheriff’s office was asked to investigate in May after a fellow employee noticed a discrepancy in office payroll records, Reams said.
The investigation is continuing since it’s believed more money is missing, he said. The $12,000 disappeared between July 2012 and May 2013, according to the indictments.
Keith Nelson also may be charged as investigators continue to review records prior to July 2012, Reams said.
“He could still face charges, depending on the investigation, “ Reams said.
Anne Marie Nelson worked in the office at the jail for 12 years and her husband served as a correctional officer for 15 years, Sheriff Michael Downing said. She has not been arrested, he said.
Reams said Anne Marie Nelson’s arraignment has not been scheduled.
She faces a potential seven and a half to 15 years in state prison and a $4,000 fine on each felony charge.
Downing said news of the thefts surprised county employees, some of whom have known the Nelsons for years.
“It’s very unfortunate,” he said. “You have a lot of dedicated, good employees who work very hard. It’s a slap in the face.”
Ever since the sheriff’s office launched its probe, county officials have been tight-lipped, saying only that two jail employees were under investigation.
Jail superintendent Stephen Church has said he could not comment on the matter while the case was under investigation. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.
County officials have said Church had a lot of faith in Anne Marie Nelson.
“I believe she was in a very trusted position,” Downing said.
In July, county Commissioners Thomas Tombarello of Sandown and Kevin Coyle confirmed the Nelsons were suspended with pay. Neither commissioner nor Commission Chairman Katharin Pratt could be reached yesterday for comment.
Coyle said in July that one of the two employees was no longer working for the county, but would not elaborate. Neither is a county employee now, but Reams and Downing did not know yesterday if they were terminated or resigned.
Downing said it’s taken months to investigate the case because of all the payroll records involved.
“We are being very meticulous,” he said.
The Nelsons could not be reached yesterday for comment. Anne Marie Nelson’s attorney, Gerald LaFlamme, was also unavailable. No one answered the door at the couple’s Chester home.