Hearing for alleged $1.1 million embezzler coming up

Diane Maxine Richards

Diane Maxine Richards

KINGMAN – Diane Maxine Richards, accused of stealing more $1.1 million dollars from the city of Kingman, will have a case management conference Sept. 20 in Mohave County Superior Court.

The former longtime city employee faces roughly two dozen felony theft, forgery and misuse of public moneys charges that began in July of 2007 and ended in January of 2015, authorities said.

The case also carries two aggravating circumstances. The first is the amount allegedly taken, the largest known embezzlement in Kingman history. The second was Richards’ position as a public servant. She was the interim finance director and budget analyst.

The alleged embezzlement was brought to the authorities’ attention when “financial institutions reported unusual activity regarding Richards’ bank accounts,” according to the state Attorney General’s office.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich said protecting taxpayers is a top priority for his office.

“Taxpayers are the real victims in cases involving theft and misuse of public moneys,” Brnovich said. “Our office will continue to work with (Homeland Security) and all law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute these cases.”

Richards’ bond was initially $100,000, but was reduced by Superior Court Judge Billy Sipe to $10,000. Assistant Attorney General Michael Powell pushed for the higher bond due to the monetary amount of the alleged embezzlement. Richards’ attorney, Steve Garcia, originally asked Sipe to release Richards on her own recognizance.

Richards allegedly stole money from the employee benefits account, said Mia Garcia, a spokesperson at the Attorney General’s office, by misusing her position as its security manager. Richards, said Garcia, altered the access settings and gave herself “sole authority to both initiate and approve transactions.”

She allegedly transferred money out of the account to pay off 17 personal lines of credit and used “a large portion of the money” to cover cash advances taken out at casinos in Laughlin.

Richards also is alleged to have misused a city of Kingman credit card for personal expenses such as cell phone, utility and car insurance bills.