Attorney general declines to file criminal charges against Platte County treasurer

The Missouri Attorney General’s office recently declined to file charges against Platte County treasurer Rob Willard, who was determined to be at fault for initiating a fraudulent wire transfer of nearly $50,000 in May of this year.

Deputy attorney general Joe Dandurand sent a letter to Platte County judge James VanAmburg on Thursday, Nov. 17, notifying him of the office’s decision. The ruling from the state came 10 days after the Platte County Commission issued a release and satisfaction of claim against Willard, who had agreed to personally repay the balance of remaining funds plus legal fees.

Rob Willard

Rob Willard

In his letter, Dandurand wrote, “Mr. Willard clearly acted negligently in this matter but we do not believe that his negligence rises to the level of criminal responsibility.”

On May 27, Willard wired $48,220 to a Florida bank account. A series of emails to Willard from an account spoofing Platte County presiding commissioner Ron Schieber’s county email account requested the money be immediately wired to pay for a tax consultant. Willard did so, then quickly discovered his mistake.

Platte County auditor Kevin Robinson’s resulting audit found that the fraudulent wire transfer was an isolated incident, but that Willard had bypassed county policy to make the transfer.
The county worked to recover the lost funds, and a portion — $28,000 — was quickly recovered from the receiving bank in Florida.

In June, the commission sent Willard a letter asking he personally refund the money, in addition to legal fees incurred, to the county and its taxpayers. Willard originally declined and the commission then filed claims with Ohio Casualty Insurance Company and Liberty Mutual Surety against Willard’s surety bond.

The commission also asked Platte County prosecutor Eric Zahnd to investigate the matter for possible criminal negligence for violating Missouri statute governing responsibility for county treasurers. The commissioners cited Missouri State Statute 54.140, which reads, in part, “No warrant shall be paid out of any fund other than that upon which it has been drawn by order of the commission,” because permission to make the transfer had not been made with the official approval of two out of three Platte County Commissioners.

Zahnd directed the matter to the Platte County Sheriff’s Office, and he recused himself from further involvement because Willard used to work in his office. VanAmburg then appointed the Missouri Attorney General’s office as the special prosecuting attorney.

Willard, who ran unopposed for re-election earlier this month, could have been forced to vacate office if found to be in violation of the statute.

“Judge Dandurand’s statement emphasized my position from the very beginning: this was a mistake, not malice,” Willard said. “ I deeply regret what happened and have taken full responsibility professionally, personally and financially. I appreciate the professionalism of (Platte County sheriff) Mark Owen and his department and the Missouri Attorney General’s office and cooperated fully with all authorities involved immediately after the discovering the fraud perpetrated upon the county.

“I will move forward to fulfill my responsibilities as county treasurer and am confident that all county officials will do the same so we can focus on the future of our community.”