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Coconino County Public Fiduciary's Office - Theft of Public Monies


In September 2006, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office requested that the Office of the Auditor General investigate allegations of financial misconduct by Ms. Helena Yazzie, former case manager for the Coconino County Public Fiduciary’s Office. As a result, our Office conducted an investigation of those financial improprieties and submitted our report to the Attorney General’s Office. During our investigation, we determined that Ms. Yazzie embezzled public monies and falsified official records in attempts to conceal her scheme. The Attorney General’s Office has taken criminal action against Ms. Yazzie, which resulted in her indictment on felony charges. See the Conclusion on page 13 of this report.

Our investigation revealed that from February 2005 to July 2006, Ms. Yazzie embezzled at least $16,757 of public monies. These monies were entrusted to the Coconino County Public Fiduciary’s Office on behalf of persons unable to manage their financial affairs; however, Ms. Yazzie used the money for her personal benefit. Ms. Yazzie embezzled from 11 wards by taking advantage of inadequate controls over the disbursement of wards’ money. Specifically, she prepared check request forms stating that wards needed certain items such as medication, which would be obtained from a retail or grocery store pharmacy. Normally, these checks would be delivered directly to the ward; however, Ms. Yazzie intercepted these checks. She then used the checks at the listed store to purchase gift cards, using the cards for her own personal debts and expenses. Ms. Yazzie also falsified official records by reporting the false disbursements to the Coconino County Superior Court.