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Nye County employee faces theft, embezzlement charges

A longtime employee in the Nye County Juvenile Probation Department is facing at least three theft-related felonies for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from the department.

As stated in a Pahrump Justice Court criminal complaint, a female employee, identified as Melinda Hinrichs, faces one count each of theft, a category “B” felony, with penalties up to one to 10 years in prison; embezzlement, also a category “B” felony; and fraudulent appropriation of property, a category “D” felony with penalties up to one to four years in prison.

Ongoing situation

The complaint asserts that the alleged theft of the monies began in 2014 and continued until September of 2019.

As an administrative assistant, Hinrichs was tasked with handling funds received as payments of fines and fees in the office, but illegally kept the funds for herself.

Nye County Sheriff’s Office Capt. David Boruchowitz said in a video statement that an investigation into the missing funds was opened on Oct. 18, 2019.

He noted that Hinrichs actually admitted to taking the funds, once confronted.

Assisting law enforcement

Boruchowitz also said that Hinrichs was very cooperative and provided valuable information about the money she allegedly stole, as well as several attempts to repay the funds.

“Nye County Sheriff’s Office investigators combed through copious amounts of financial records, in an attempt to identify exactly how much money was missing,” he said, via a video news release. “During the course of the investigation, it was determined that it was in excess of $100,000 missing. Hinrichs resigned from Nye County employment and the case was concluded at the end of November and submitted to the Nye County District Attorney’s office for prosecution.”

What took so long?

Nye County District Attorney Chris Arabia said part of his investigation will seek to answer exactly why the alleged acts were not discovered sooner.

“That’s the $64,000 question, and at this point, I don’t know, but I would like to know,” he said. “We take these kinds of charges especially seriously because not only do you have corruption, but also a violation against the public by a person in a position of public trust. I’m not sure exactly how long she was employed with the Nye County Juvenile Probation Office, but she was there for a very long time. I don’t have any comment on how she intended to repay the missing funds.”

No comments

When asked why Hinrichs was allowed to resign from her position, rather than being terminated, Arabia replied that he didn’t know, but even if he did, he wouldn’t have any comment.

Arabia did say, however, that the citizens of Nye County can rest assured that the district attorney’s office will continue working and will do everything possible to find out how the theft could have been carried out for several years.

“We are investigating how this could have happened for so long as it apparently did, and who could have or should have stopped it sooner,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on what she said she spent the money on.”

According to Boruchowitz, Hinrichs has not been arrested. Hinrichs’ arraignment date is scheduled for Feb. 24, at 9 a.m., in Pahrump Justice Court.

Contact reporter Selwyn Harris at sharris@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes

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