Two Face Felony Charges for Alleged $25,000 Theft from Nome Schools

The Nome court. (Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file)
The Nome court. (Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file)

Two Nome residents—a man and woman—are facing felony charges for theft and falsifying business records after allegedly stealing more than $25,000 from Nome Public Schools.

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Court records show 28-year-old Ashla Marie Weston and 24-year-old Joseph Grubb face felony charges for three separate thefts that court documents allege were committed from February through December of 2012. One of those thefts, court records claim, exceeds $25,000, enough to warrant a charge of felony theft in the first degree. The other two charges claim the value stolen was more than $500 but less than $25,000.

Assistant District Attorney Tom Jamgochian said Tuesday only that “the alleged victim is [Nome Public] Schools.” School officials could not provide a total dollar amount missing from the district due to the ongoing investigation.

A grand jury indictment filed in Nome court on April 16 remains sealed from public view unless and until presented at trial or made public through a court motion.

The alleged thefts first came to light under former Superintendent Mike Brawner, who left the district in March 2013. Brawner at once opened up the school’s financial records to investigators. Current superintendent Shawn Arnold said that coordination continues.

“As soon as the allegations were brought forward to [Brawner], he turned that over to law enforcement immediately,” Arnold said. “And from there on out, we have continued to cooperate with the investigations, which are still ongoing.”

Messages to investigators with the Nome Police Department for additional details were not returned.

The grand jury also handed down six additional felony counts against Weston for allegedly falsifying business records; in this case, purchase orders dated from January to December of 2012. Court documents say the “false entries in the business records” of the district were filed “with intent to defraud” Nome Public Schools.

School officials say Weston worked in the district’s business office for several years leading up to 2012, but it was unclear when she stopped working there. In June of that year—the time of the alleged $25,000 theft—Superintendent Arnold said the staff at the district office was especially lean, as most staffers had time off for the summer.

Arnold said Nome Schools has taken steps to safeguard against any possible future incidents.

“The process is secured now. We didn’t know of some of the gaps in accounting. This process, it wouldn’t be able to occur now with the checks and balances that are currently in place. These were put in place as soon as the allegations occurred. There’s a much more transparent accounting system where nothing like this should happen again.”

Neither Grubb nor Weston returned messages seeking comments on the indictment. The two have not been arrested, but they are both subject to a summons to appear before the Nome court on Friday, April 24, to formally hear the charges against them.

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Matthew Smith is a reporter at KNOM in Nome.

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