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2 charged with stealing Flowery Branch city funds
1016Maria Arevalo
Maria Magana Arevalo

A Flowery Branch city employee and a former Flowery Branch Police clerk have been arrested on charges of stealing city funds, according to the city’s mayor, Mike Miller.

Maria Magana Arevalo, 44, is charged with two counts of felony theft in connection with funds taken between May 23 and Aug. 16, according to Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, sheriff’s office spokesman. Miller said Arevalo is accused of stealing about $22,000 from city deposits, $3,054 of which has been recovered.

She handled city taxes, rental of the Depot, accounts receivable and business licenses, according to the Flowery Branch website, and Miller said she had been with the city for more than five years. She is free on $10,000 bond, Wilbanks said.

Interim Flowery Branch Police Chief David Spillers requested an investigation by an outside agency since Arevalo was a city employee, according to the sheriff’s office.

Finance Director Jeremy Perry discovered the funds were missing and notified City Manager Bill Andrew, according to a news release from the city.

Miller said the missing funds won’t cause any harm to the city, noting that restitution would be handled through the court system.

"I think it just proves the significance of having a true dedicated finance officer," he said. "... And until we hired Jeremy Perry in that position, we didn’t have a dedicated finance officer reviewing our funds." Perry was hired in February.

Rhonda Lynn Crawford, who worked with the police department until August, is accused of stealing about $2,000 in city funds, Miller said, which was discovered during a routine audit.

Wilbanks said Crawford was booked into the Hall County Jail on nine counts of computer forgery and 16 counts of misdemeanor theft by taking. She is free on $24,000 bond, he said.

Crawford had worked with the department for just more than a year, Miller said.

"The arrest of these individuals is disappointing in that both were considered trusted employees," Miller said.

Flowery Branch Police investigated that case since she was no longer an employee. Miller said he did not feel the police had any bias in the investigation. Spillers could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.