6/10/2013Ohio: Mother-Daughter Speed Trap Team Face The Judge
Mother and daughter team pockets $260,000 from speed trap in Arlington Heights, Ohio.
A mother and daughter team that ripped off motorists in the speed trap town of Arlington Heights, Ohio will now be spending time together behind bars. Donna Covert, the former clerk of the village mayor's court, and her daughter, Laura Jarvis, the deputy clerk, were indicted last July on five felony counts of theft and records tampering. Covert appeared last week before Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Melba D. Marsh to plead for mercy. The judge was unsympathetic.
"This is a betrayal of a public trust, gross faithlessness against the public trust, gross negligence of duty, all done in an atmosphere with no controls, no oversight, no accountability," Judge Marsh said. "You knew it was wrong. Why did you do this?"
"I don't know," Covert replied tearfully.
Between July 2007 and February 2010, Covert and Jarvis used their positions in charge of handling cash, making bank deposits for the village and maintaining traffic court records, to skim $260,000 in revenue collected from drivers into their own pockets.
The village, population 742, is a notorious speed trap, as documented by the National Speed Trap Exchange. Travelers on Interstate 75 are targeted by the village police department, which collects fines of between $110 to $150 for each traffic stop on the small section that falls within the village jurisdiction.
Two years ago, State Auditor Dave Yost looked at the fines collected and was unable to reconcile the village books. In 2009, Arlington Heights collected $1.1 million in revenue, $320,156 of which came from fines. Recordkeeping was so shoddy that it was impossible to track individual motorist payments.
"For these seven months, the village averaged less than one deposit per week," Yost wrote. "Therefore, we were unable to determine if an amount collected on a specific case or ticket was, in fact, deposited."
Village police chiefs suggested something was wrong, and further investigation by the attorney general uncovered the theft. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters concluded Arlington Heights should not even exist.
"The village council needs to seriously consider dissolving the village of Arlington Heights," Deters said in a statement. "The village seems to be nothing more than a speed trap with no checks and balances. Two of its employees were using it as their personal cookie jar. Consolidating with another political subdivision is long overdue."
Covert's attorney, Mike Allen, attempted to defend her conduct in court last week.
"She did not use the money for extravagant purchases or anything of that nature," Allen said. "She used it to pay household bills. That's obviously not to excuse it."