Was a Vt. employee shopping with taxpayer money? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Police investigation: Was a Vt. employee shopping with taxpayer money?

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Ron Ratledge lives in Michigan and sells guitars over the internet. He uses eBay, the world's largest online marketplace to connect with potential buyers. Two weeks ago Ratledge says he was contacted by a Vermont state employee who offered to buy his Taylor guitar.

"She said that she had some retirement money and she asked if I'd take a check," Ratledge said. "She says she pays for items this way all the time."

They negotiated a price and Ratledge says the employee promised to pay him $6,000 plus shipping. But when the check made it to Michigan, Ratledge says something wasn't right.

"She threw out all kinds of red flags, believe me," he said.

He sent WCAX News a photo of the check. It's cut from a state of Vermont account and the employee's name is nowhere on it.

"That was my main concern, is the check good? And she said, of course, the check is good," Ratledge said. "You could just hear her breathing picked up. She became really nervous and said, 'Just forget it. Just send it back at this point. I really don't want to do this. Send it back.'"

A review of eBay reveals the employee is an active user, buying and selling high value items like diamonds and guitars since 1999. She has more than 500 sales to her name. When Ratledge saw that he worried cashing the check could implicate him if it turned out the employee was stealing from the state.

"I could have simply took the money and I could have cashed it and not said anything," Ratledge said. "But I'm not that way. I'm not that kind of person."

Ratledge said he became more suspicious after finding out the employee worked for the Office of Risk Management, which cuts checks for liability claims against the state. The department is a division of the Agency of Administration and handles more than 400 claims a year, paying out millions.

"The state needs to tighten up over there," Ratledge said. "They need to really look at things."

Ratledge reported the strange check to the state. And detectives are now working the case. Col. Tom L'Esperance confirms the Vermont State Police are conducting an investigation into alleged fraudulent activity by a state employee in the Office of Risk Management. He says no arrests have been made. WCAX News is withholding the employee's name until criminal charges are filed. Vermont State Police are also not releasing the employee's name. But we have confirmed that as of April 2, she is no longer a state employee.

Reporter Jennifer Reading: Do you have an ax to grind with the state of Vermont or ****?

Ron Ratledge: No, not at all.

Ratledge says he's learned the employee told her boss he was a mechanic fixing a 2003 Lincoln Navigator and the check should be payable to him.

Jennifer Reading: Have you ever had any dealings between your job and the state of Vermont?

Ron Ratledge: No, not at all... I've always been taught to do the right thing. That's what I did. I did the right thing. I hope... I know there are other people who live in the state of Vermont-- they work hard for that money... It's just not right.

L'Esperance says he was notified about the case Monday night. Vermont State Police are now looking to see how a check like this could be cut from a state account and if it's happened before.

Ratledge says he turned the check over to Michigan Police.

As for the guitar, it's back on eBay.

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