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4:46 AM Thu, Oct. 18th

Kingman fires auditor in wake of alleged $300K theft

Kingman Finance Director Tina Moline, pictured, and City Manager John Dougherty took the action against Heinfeld, Meech and Co., a Phoenix-based accounting firm. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

Kingman Finance Director Tina Moline, pictured, and City Manager John Dougherty took the action against Heinfeld, Meech and Co., a Phoenix-based accounting firm. (DOUG McMURDO/Miner)

KINGMAN - City of Kingman Finance Director Tina Moline and City Manager John Dougherty have fired the city's longtime auditor after a now-former budget analyst allegedly stole roughly $300,000 from one of city's bank accounts.

Heinfeld, Meech and Co., certified public accountants based in Phoenix, performed the city's annual audits for years. According to Mayor Richard Anderson, the firm failed to audit the targeted bank account, which held funding for city employees' internal benefits, for at least the past six years.

Budget analyst Diane Maxine Richards was fired Nov. 16 after special agents with the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the federal Department of Homeland Security served search warrants at City Hall and Richards' Kingman home.

Richards allegedly transferred more than $300,000 from the account, using three separate methods, to her personal account to cover cash withdrawals she made on her personal credit cards.

A source close to the case said Homeland Security could seek an indictment against Richards and could arrest her in January. She faces potential charges of fraudulent schemes, computer tampering, money laundering and theft. Dougherty has said Richards was cooperating with the investigation.

The upheaval led Moline and Dougherty to terminate the city's contract with the auditor - and it also delayed the city's annual financial audit, which Moline said usually wraps up this time of year.

Instead, she advised the Council that the city will have to send out a request for proposals to other certified public accountants and contract with one to perform the audits.

The earliest the city could hire a new firm would be in January, said Moline, leaving insufficient time to meet a March 31 deadline to submit the audit. Moline said the Auditor General will allow the city an extension given the circumstances. A woman at Heinfeld, Meech said the company does not speak to reporters, but allowed one to leave a voice message.