Criminal Justice

Former Court Clerk Gets 10 Years for Stealing $500K from Ticket and Fine Payments

A former court clerk was sentenced by an Iowa judge to a 10-year prison term after entering a no-contest plea to four counts of first-degree theft in the middle of her October trial.

The prosecution had sought a 20-year term for Tina Marlene Zieser, 46, who must also pay restitution of over $500,000 for converting ticket and fine payments for her own personal use over a three-year period, reports the Courier.

Judge Michael Shubatt of Dubuque also held her responsible for some $58,000 in audit costs.

Zieser made bookkeeping entries indicating that community service had worked off part of the amount due to cover her tracks in the Black Hawk County clerk of court’s office, the article says.

Two former colleagues who fell under suspicion during the investigation testified against her. One said her own life was turned upside down when officials audited her personal finances and forced her to explain every penny she spent. Another said she was blamed for the crime by Zieser, who pointed out to authorities that she had paid her student and car loans in full.

A public defender representing Zieser blamed a gambling addition for the crime. However, Zieser herself was still insisting, during a pre-sentence investigation, that she had been wrongly convicted, according to the Courier.

She told the judge her imprisonment would be hard on her husband, children and mother and said she could continue working to pay restitution if she was put on probation.

A Radio Iowa article says authorities investigated after a cash reconciliation problem came to their attention one day.

An earlier Courier article, about an administrative law judge’s determination that the county had been within its rights to fire Zieser from her job of 12 years, reported that she also argued her computer name and password were accessible to others who might have committed the crime.

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