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Springer pleads guilty to stealing charge

FARMINGTON – The woman who stole $85,000 from the Mineral Area Drug Task Force in 2002 pleaded guilty today to a felony stealing charge just minutes before her trial was to begin.

Deanna Lynn Springer, 41, of Bonne Terre, the former secretary for the multi-county law enforcement agency, pleaded guilty to the Class B felony charge of stealing before Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte in the judge’s chambers at 8:30 this morning.

In the last-minute plea agreement worked out between Prosecuting Attorney Wendy Wexler Horn and Springer’s attorney, James Pennoyer, she could be sentenced up to 10 years in prison.

Horn said she would not oppose what is called &#8220120-day shock incarceration” if Springer was able to pay her court costs and $85,000 in restitution before she is sentenced on April 21. After serving 120 days in prison, Springer could be released by the judge and placed on five years of supervised probation.

Horn said she did consult with the drug task force and the Missouri State Highway Patrol and they were supportive of the plea agreement.

Springer told Judge Pratte she &#8220misused the task force credit card” for her own personal use. She agreed she spent about $85,000 worth of state and federal funds.

Judge Pratte cautioned Springer that she would have to have the entire amount paid before the state would agree to not oppose a 120-day program. He said it would still be up to him to decide the sentence, even with the state and her attorney’s recommendations.

A one-day trial was scheduled today before Circuit Court Judge Kenneth W. Pratte in St. Francois County. Jurors had already arrived and were waiting in the courtroom.

Springer could have been sentenced up to 15 years in prison.

According to the probable cause statement filed in associate circuit court, the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s Division of Drug and Crime Control was notified by Sgt. Wade Stuart, coordinator of the Mineral Area Drug Task Force, about an accounting discrepancy after a routine audit of several federal and state-funded accounts.

Springer, who had the responsibility of maintaining those accounts, was asked to produce documents for the auditor for examination. Prior to the meeting with the auditor, Springer admitted to Sgt. David Bauer and Stuart that she had been misusing a credit card assigned to her for business purposes only. She admitted to using the credit card for her own personal use, paying for the purchases with state and federal funds.

Upon further investigation, including examination of all credit card statements beginning January 2002, as well as the affected bank accounts, it was determined the total amount of stolen money “greatly exceeded $25,000.”

The task force investigates drug crimes in St. Francois, Washington, Madison and Ste. Genevieve counties.

While local participating law enforcement agencies contribute some funds toward the support of the task force, the bulk of the operating costs are covered by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Administrative oversight for the task force is provided by its board of trustees. The board is made up of representatives from the local participating agencies.

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