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Former court clerk charged with theft

The former clerk for the city of Russellville’s court system was indicted recently on theft charges for allegedly stealing more than $25,000 from the court system over a three-year period.
LaDonna Hitt Montgomery, 46, 100 City Lake Drive, Russellville, was indicted for first-degree theft of property by the May session of the Franklin County grand jury, courthouse officials said.
Authorities said Montgomery turned herself in at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Monday morning and was formally arrested on the charge.
Officials said the statute of limitations allows investigators to go back three years when investigating a theft case, and records show about $25,000 was discovered to be missing during that time.
City officials said discrepancies in the bookkeeping records were discovered in May 2012 and Montgomery was placed on administrative leave with pay while a forensic audit was conducted.
The city requested the Alabama Bureau of Investigation to handle the investigation into the theft allegation.
ABI officials said the forensic audit did indeed show that a significant amount of money was missing from the city court system account.
City officials said Montgomery was allegedly taking cash payments that city inmates were paying for fines they incurred.
She is then accused of changing records to cover up the money she had taken and giving the inmates credit for jail time served in return for the money she had taken.
Officials were alerted to the problem when several people were picked up on outstanding warrants but their records showed they had paid fines in place of serving jail time.
Officials said Montgomery was on paid administrative leave from the time the discrepancies were discovered in May 2012 until the forensic audit led to a formal investigation by the ABI in November.
Officials said Montgomery was terminated at this time.
ABI officials said once their investigation was complete, their findings were presented to the May session of the Franklin County grand jury, which indicted Montgomery on the charge.
Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly presented the case after Franklin County District Attorney recused himself due to working with Montgomery in the past through her position as city clerk.
“This is an unfortunate situation,” Russellville Mayor David Grissom said.
“Due to the ongoing circumstances, the city will have no further comment on the matter at this time.”
Montgomery has been released from custody on a $5,000 bond.