Fernandina Beach News Leader
Embezzler lavished cash on co-worker
By Benjamin Price, News-Leader
While she was embezzling more than $1 million from the Nassau County Clerk of Courts Office, Julie Mixon shared a joint savings account with a co-worker, loaned her money and took numerous gambling trips with her, police records show.
Longtime clerk of courts employee Debra Harris Keiter, currently a payroll specialist in the finance office where Mixon worked, also received a $5,000 cash transfer from Mixon she could not explain to authorities.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigators twice asked Keiter "point blank" if she stole funds from the office. Keiter adamantly denied any involvement in Mixon's scheme and agreed to a polygraph test, which was never given.
No other clerk's office employees are suspected of embezzling funds or assisting Mixon, but the FDLE said Tuesday the investigation remains open.
"As far as Debra Keiter . . . there is no evidence that the (joint) account was used to hide stolen funds," and she is not suspected of aiding or abetting Mixon's theft, FDLE spokeswoman Sharon Gogerty said Tuesday.
Mixon, a finance supervisor who confessed in April to stealing from the office since 1996 and later committed suicide, kept numerous bank accounts, some with family members, records show.
FDLE records show Mixon made "questionable deposits" into personal bank accounts as well as joint accounts with relatives and Keiter, employed at the clerk of courts since 1981, the same year Mixon began work there.
The FDLE report says Keiter initially told investigators Mixon lent her money over the years totaling "about $1,000."
But when the interviewer "confronted" Keiter about Mixon's transfer of $5,000 into her AmSouth checking account in May 2004, "the subject could not provide an explanation as to why this transfer took place."
It says Keiter "theorized" Mixon might have routed proceeds from the sale of Georgia property she inherited from her father to avoid paying taxes on the transaction, but adds she "was not sure of this explanation."
Two days later, Keiter reportedly contacted one of the investigators and said that after checking her bank records she could not remember the reason for the transfer.
Records show Mixon and Keiter shared a savings account opened at Bank of America on Feb. 21, 2003. Both contributed $75 a pay period into the account to pay for trips, although Mixon also transferred money there from her checking account.
The end balance on April 14 was $1,996.18 and records show Mixon transferred $900 into the account on March 30. No other details or withdrawals are mentioned in the report.
Keiter told investigators she accompanied Mixon on at least "three to four" trips to Las Vegas and "several" trips to western North Carolina. They stayed at the Excalibur Hotel in Vegas, where Mixon received complimentary rooms.
Keiter said she also had a player's card from the Excaliber, but usually used Mixon's card because she would gain more credit and "comps."
According to the report, Keiter said Mixon usually played slot machines. Keiter told investigators that "Mixon was generous with her family but did not spend or live extravagantly."
Keiter's role at the clerk's office prior to April 2004 included picking up daily receipts kept in bank bags that eventually were taken to Mixon's office.
After the bags were removed from a safe, the report said, Keiter or one of three other finance employees would count the receipts in front of a witness, sign the bank bag log and give the receipts to employee Patricia Goodall.
Goodall would complete the deposit slips and provide them along with the receipts to Mixon for her review.
During the FDLE interview, Keiter was shown several cash count forms she had signed. In each instance, the forms and the corresponding deposit slips contained different figures.
The report says Keiter could not understand how this happened, then was asked "point blank" if she ever took any cash. Keiter denied this and agreed to take a polygraph test.
Later in the interview, Keiter was again asked if she stole funds and replied, "No!"
When asked who embezzled the funds, Keiter responded, "Julie must have" and became visibly upset, according to the report.
During the investigation, Mixon confessed to destroying deposit slips and receipts and creating false checks to cover her tracks.
The report said thefts occurred no matter who was transporting the funds to Mixon's office.
Clerk of Court John Crawford said Tuesday he was aware of the FDLE report's mention of Mixon's joint savings account with Keiter, and Mixon's transfer of $5,000 into Keiter's checking account.
"There's certainly no law against a joint savings account or checking account," he said. "I have no indication that it was being used for any illegal purposes, or was related to their job at the clerk's office."
Crawford also said no employees at the clerk's office have been disciplined related to the theft investigation.
"There was no indication that there was any criminal involvement by any other clerk employee," he said.
Keiter could not be reached for comment.