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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

Ex-Auto Title Division bookkeeper facing 7 counts

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A week after a warrant was issued for her arrest on several theft and forgery charges, a former bookkeeper for the Lucas County Clerk of Courts' Auto Title Division appeared yesterday to face charges that she stole more than $101,000 in public funds.

Tina Lake, who lives in Florida, pleaded not guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court to five counts of forgery and one count each of aggravated theft and felony theft in office.

If convicted on all charges, she faces up to 15 years in prison.

Ms. Lake, who resigned in March, was booked into the county jail yesterday, then released on an electronic monitoring bond after assuring the court she'd reside at a Waterville address for the duration of the case. Judge Gene Zmuda set a July 9 hearing date.

Authorities believe the thefts date to at least 2005 and include the theft of hundreds to thousands of dollars at a time.

Ms. Lake was indicted June 10 in response to a criminal investigation by the county prosecutor's office. Clerk of Courts Bernie Quilter referred the case to the prosecutor's office after he became concerned about the division's finances and initiated an internal investigation.

Mr. Quilter also asked that the Ohio Auditor's Office do a complete audit of the division. The audit, which will examine records back to 2003, will take months to complete.

"Now that she's been indicted and she was arraigned today, we'll just work with the prosecutor's office to makes sure justice is served," Mr. Quilter said yesterday.

Ms. Lake was hired as a deputy clerk in 1998, the year before Mr. Quilter was elected as clerk of courts. She was a bookkeeper from 2000 to 2007 and was promoted to a supervisory position in the fall.

She is accused of stealing from both the Madison Avenue and McCord Road branches. The missing funds came from the Auto Title Division's certificate title account, which funds the division.

The Auto Title Division is made up of four offices and about 24 employees.



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