AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - It is a case that divided a small Maine town.
Today the Maine Supreme Court took up the appeal of Claudia Viles.
Viles is the former longtime tax collector in the Town of Anson. In September a jury convicted her of stealing more than a half million dollars from the town. Even after her conviction, some people still didn’t believe she took the money. Viles has maintained her innocence until the end and has vowed to clear her name.
The state prosecutor told the justices of the Maine Supreme Court the paper trail led to Viles and she was the only person who had custody over the excise taxes she’s convicted of stealing.
“She completed the bank deposit slips and was responsible for attaching the corresponding cash and checks to each slip. She was the only person who had custody of the deposit. She would have known if there were a short fall because it was in fact her job”, said Leanne Robbin, Assistant Attorney General.
Viles attorney says the evidence used to convict her was strictly circumstantial and there were other people who had access to that money. He says the big unanswered question in this case is, if Viles took the money, where is it?
“They never to this day could tell us where the half million went. That’s because they could never find it. They talked about other resources she had, but none of that was ever tied to any of this alleged theft and that’s a head scratcher”, said attorney Walt McKee.
McKee acknowledges it is very difficult convincing the justices to overturn a jury verdict.
The case is still being talked about in town where Viles worked for 43 years, 33 of it as town treasurer. Town officials say her actions caused taxes to go up, projects to be put off and distrust in local government. Taxes have since come down, due in part to an increase in excise tax revenues. Anson’s Administrative Assistant Tammy Murray says the town is still healing, financially and emotionally.
“It’s a hard thing for anybody and everybody involved. You have families, you have town officials, taxpayers. I just hope they all come together when this all over”, she said.
The Maine Municipal Association is now working with the town on a civil suit filed against Viles, in an attempt to recoup the missing money.
Despite her conviction, Viles is free on bail pending the outcome of today’s appeal. If it’s denied, a date will be set for her to report to prison. She was sentenced to serve 5 years.
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