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State v. Viles

Supreme Court of Maine

July 6, 2017

STATE OF MAINE
v.
CLAUDIA G. VILES

          Argued: May 10, 2017

         Reporter of Decisions

          Walter F. McKee, Esq. (orally), McKee Law, PA, Augusta, for appellant Claudia G. Viles

          Janet T. Mills, Attorney General, and Leanne Robbin, Asst. Atty. Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for appellee State of Maine

          Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., [*] and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          JABAR, J.

         [¶l] Claudia G. Viles appeals from a judgment entered by the trial court (Somerset County, Mullen, /.) upon a jury verdict finding her guilty of one count of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 353(1) (B)(1) (2016), eleven counts of failure to pay tax or file a Maine State tax return (Class D), 36 M.R.S. § 5332(1) (2016), and one count of tampering with public records or information (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. § 456(1)(C) (2016). On appeal, she contends that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to find her guilty of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and tampering with public records. We disagree and affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         [¶2] Taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, the jury rationally could have found the following facts beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Troy, 2014 ME 9, ¶ 3, 86 A.3d 591. From at least 1998 until 2015, Viles was the elected tax collector for the Town of Anson, Maine (the "town"). She was the sole Town employee responsible for registering motor vehicles and collecting the affiliated excise taxes, as well as preparing a treasurer's receipt indicating the amount of taxes collected to deposit at the bank. Although the Town treasurer would confirm that the amount on the treasurer's receipt matched the amount of checks and cash that Viles provided for deposit and would sign the treasurer's receipt, the treasurer did not confirm that the amount indicated for deposit on the treasurer's receipt was supported by vehicle registration forms. Prior to preparing each deposit, Viles kept the cash and checks she collected in a bag that she usually stored in her desk drawer at work; on occasion she was seen taking the bag home. Her deposits were irregular and rarely timely, sometimes occurring as much as three months apart.

         [¶3] For most of her tenure as tax collector, Viles tallied the excise taxes and prepared treasurer's receipts for deposit by hand. In September 2014, a new treasurer implemented "cash receipting" through TRIO, a computer program that reconciled receipts on a daily basis and provided a report that included the total amount of excise taxes entered on vehicle registration forms. On January 19, 2015, the treasurer ran TRIO reports for 2014 in preparation for an annual town financial audit. Upon reviewing a report of excise taxes, the treasurer discovered that the amount of taxes collected was higher than what Viles had provided in deposits. The treasurer asked Viles to provide motor vehicle registration reports and treasurer's receipts to reconcile the conflicting figures, but Viles did not produce those documents. The treasurer then informed Viles, the chairman of the town board of selectmen, and the town auditor about the discrepancy.

         [¶4] An investigation by the town auditor revealed that, for tax year 2014, there were shortfalls totaling $90, 109.76 in Viles's excise tax deposits. The town requested that the auditor check previous years' records for additional shortfalls. When the treasurer attempted to collect the necessary motor vehicle registrations in order to confirm Viles's reporting of collected taxes, the registration documentation could not be found in the town office. Viles reported that she had removed the documents from the building, and, following her receipt of a letter from the town's attorney insisting that she return the records, she returned them "piecemeal, " but never returned records for 2010.[1] The auditor obtained copies of the registration documents from the State, and after reviewing previous years, found shortfalls for 2013 of $112, 491.09; for 2012 of $125, 355.35; for 2011 of $110, 756.34; and for 2010 of $62, 236; and confirmed that the money had not been improperly deposited to other town accounts or mixed up with other deposits.

         [¶5] On September 3, 2015, Viles was indicted by grand jury for one count of theft by unauthorized taking or transfer (Class B), 17-A M.R.S. § 353(1)(B)(1), eleven counts of failure to pay tax or file a return (Class D), 36 M.R.S. §5332(1), and one count of tampering with public records or information (Class D), 17-A M.R.S. §456(1)(C). She pleaded not guilty to all charges.

         [¶6] Following a jury trial held on June 20, 21, and 22, 2016, the jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts. The trial court sentenced Viles to eight years' imprisonment for Count 1, with all but five years suspended and three years of probation, to run concurrently with nine months' imprisonment each for Counts 2 through 13; as well as $566, 257.65 in restitution-$500, 948 for theft of excise ...


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