Nelson County, VA
As first reported back in late 2011, Nelson’s Emergency Service Coordinator, Ray Uttaro, was charged with felony embezzlement. Today he appeared in a Nelson courtroom and plead guilty to misdemeanor embezzlement.
“Mr. Uttaro has been suspended without pay,” said Steve Carter, Nelson County Administrator, around 3:30PM Wednesday afternoon in reply to our email inquiry earlier Wednesday asking about the employment status.
Nelson County Commonwealth Attorney Anthony Martin just released the details concerning the case around noon Wednesday. We have posted his release verbatim. Nothing has been changed or edited whatsoever.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: March 7, 2012
RE: Uttaro pleads guilty to embezzlement of donated television
FROM: ANTHONY MARTIN, COMMONWEALTH’S ATTORNEY
County Employee Ray Uttaro, pleaded guilty today to misdemeanor embezzlement in the Nelson County General District Court.
On January 31, 2011, Uttaro, a county employee, by email solicited the donation of a flat screen television from Crutchfield citing the small size of the television that was in the old dispatch center. Crutchfield responded to Uttaro’s email on February 16, 2011, saying they were donating a 46-inch Sony television to the Communications Center. Uttaro then sent a reply back to Crutchfield on the same day thanking them for the donation.
Suspicion of the television’s whereabouts began to surface in the spring of 2011. On February 20, 2011, Uttaro posted as his Facebook status: “I am happy to say, I got a flat panel 27-inch TV for my dispatchers. It will go in the new center once its finished.” On April 2, 2011, Uttaro posted as his Facebook status: “Slept in late this morning, YEAH, mounted the TV to the wall.” He also posted photos of what appeared to be a large flat-screen television on his living room wall. The date of the photo was April 17, 2011.
In mid-November, 2011, the sheriff’s office received information that the television from Crutchfield that was donated to the center may have been the television depicted in Uttaro’s Facebook photos. Uttaro had given conflicting statements to other employees as to the whereabouts of the Crutchfield television. He told one employee that he turned Crutchfield’s offer to donate the television down.
Meanwhile, Uttaro put a smaller Olevia television in the dispatch center. Because of the inconsistent statements and the Facebook postings, this matter was brought to the attention of Nelson County investigators.
To give Uttaro the benefit of the doubt, the investigators first went to Crutchfield to find out if the television was either returned or not picked up. Crutchfield provided the investigators with the email correspondence detailed above and said that the television was picked up and never returned to the store.
After interviewing employees from Crutchfield, investigators went to Uttaro’s residence in Shipman on November 28, 2011.
Investigator Billy Mays and Becky Adcock went to Uttaro’s home and asked if they could speak to him concerning the whereabouts of the donated television. This interview was tape-recorded. Uttaro told Mays and Adcock that he did not pick up the television from Crutchfield.
Mays asked Uttaro about the 27-inch Olevia television that was in the dispatch center at that time. Uttaro told them that he bought that television from Craigslist for $200.00.
Uttaro was then asked about the large television that was mounted on his living room wall. This television had a striking resemblance to the donated television. Mays and Adcock also had the serial number of the television that was donated to the dispatch center by Crutchfield with them.
Uttaro said the television on his wall was not the donated television and that he bought it from a friend. Uttaro could not provide a name for the friend. Mays then told Uttaro that he had spoken to the people at Crutchfield and that their records showed that the donated television never came back and asked Uttaro if they could look at the serial number to the television on his wall.
Once confronted with this information, Uttaro admitted that the television on his wall was the one donated by Crutchfield. He admitted to picking up the television from Crutchfield around February or March and did not know why he kept it. Uttaro then helped the officers dismount the television from the wall and it was taken into evidence.
Uttaro was sentenced to 90 days in jail with 86 days suspended leaving an active jail sentence of 4 days. Uttaro also received a $1,200.00 fine which was the value of the television. He must also perform 100 hours of community service, pay court costs, and he cannot take care of anyone else’s money or property for two years.
The following exhibits were filed in the court papers: copies of email correspondence from Uttaro and Crutchfield, copies of Uttaro’s Facebook postings and photos of the television; and finally a copy of Uttaro’s recorded statement with law enforcement.