HAZARD — A Perry County woman pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that she stole nearly $600,000 in tax money while an employee of the Perry County Sheriff’s Office.
An indictment returned last week alleges that over the course of several years from 2002 to 2006, Lana Dean, 66, of Hazard, stole the money from taxes collected in the sheriff’s office while she was working as bookkeeper. The money was allegedly found to be missing during a state audit released in 2008.
Dean made her first appearance in Perry Circuit Court Thursday where she pleaded not guilty to one count of abuse of the public trust over $100,000. A trial date was set for Monday, August 12, 2013, so that the evidence in the case, which includes various documents, could be collected and analyzed by both the defense and the prosecution.
Defense attorney David Johnson said following Dean’s arraignment that he believes his client is innocent of the allegations against her.
“We believe that once we go through all of these records, that this charging of a woman that has actually been retired now for three or four years, based upon what happened years back, multiple administrations back, basically she is just being scapegoated,” said Johnson.
Johnson added that he is not even certain that any money was actually taken at all since several prior audits failed to find any funds to be missing. “She is being laid out there as sort of the sacrificial lamb for true individuals that may or may not have taken anything,” said Johnson. “There have been audits in the past that say that the money was there, that there was no money taken.”
Dean lives a very modest lifestyle, he continued, and does not show any signs of having the amounts of money that the indictment claims she had stolen.
“If there is money missing I find it strange that they would offer her up as the perpetrator,” said Johnson. “She lives in a trailer, a very modest house, there is no indication at all that she has $590,000 hidden anywhere. I think that given that she worked through four or five different administrations over the course of more than 20 years, she is an easy target because she was the bookkeeper.”
Dean is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on June 26, 2013, though there will likely be motions filed in the case before that date.