Former Farmers co-op employee accused of stealing thousands

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NEWPORT, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Cocke Farmers Co-op was bustling Tuesday, like usual - lots of people and lots of business. That's why managers were surprised when an end-of-the-year audit showed the co-op was missing a big chunk of cash.

"Just us and the auditors kind of looked over some things, noticed some stuff at the bank wasn't adding up," said Justin Thompson, manager of the Cocke Farmers Co-op.

In fact, it turns out the business was missing $190,000 over five years. Thompson said the co-op's bookkeeper, Patricia Jones, denied knowing anything about it.

Thompson said when they started questioning her about where the money went, Jones suddently quit and didn't give a reason. That's when the co-op turned to the Newport Police Department. Officers did another audit and said Jones stole the money.

"Some of the patronage checks weren't being sent to the customers, and they wouldn't be added to the books. She would just take those checks. Fuel sales - if you had fuel delivered, 500 dollars worth of fuel, and you came back with cash - it would never make it to the register," said Detective Lynn Shults, with the Newport Police Department.

Jones is now charged with theft over $60,000.

"I was very suprised because obviously if you're going to put somebody in that position you trust them. And she'd been here for 13 years," said Thompson.

Luckily, the co-op had insurance so it's doing okay. And it's changed its bookkeeping practices so something similar can't happen again.

Jones is free on a $50,000 bond. She's due back in court on July 15.

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