A former City Court judge in Dillon is to make an initial court appearance next week on charges she pocketed fine payments and altered computer records to cover it up.
Crystal Mae Thompson was scheduled for her first hearing Thursday but her attorney, Jeffrey DaHood of Anaconda, asked for and was granted a delay until Feb. 15.
Thompson resigned from the bench last August amid a probe by Dillon Police, other local officials and the Montana Division of Criminal Investigation that resulted in charges being filed last month.
Thompson is charged with felony theft for an amount exceeding $1,500 and tampering with public records or information, also a felony. Each one carries a maximum prison term of 10 years and $50,000 fine.
The Montana Standard left a message for DaHood at his law office on Wednesday seeking comment.
According to the charging document, Thompson admitted to a state investigator that she stole funds from the Dillon City Court, made “random” adjustments to records and deposited the stolen cash in her personal checking account.
She said she and her husband had filed for bankruptcy in 2007 and were again having financial problems, according to the charging document. She also said she was “currently living check to check,” her daughter had medical issues and she was behind on credit card payments.
She made the statements after being advised of her rights, assistant attorneys general for the state wrote in the charging document, and said she was “embarrassed and sorry.”
The first incident cited by prosecutors occurred in March 2017 when a man put $100 in a sealed envelope to pay a fine. It was placed under the keyboard of a court official with a paper receipt, but turned up missing.
A court employee told Thompson about it and she credited the man’s account for the missing money but did not notify anyone about a potential theft, the document says.
In June, a woman said she paid $100 directly to Judge Thompson and got a receipt but the carbon copy for it was gone. Thompson entered a $100 adjustment to the woman’s account showing “community service” but she told a court employee she didn’t know what happened to the money, prosecutors said.
There were other incidents cited, and although receipt numbers are generated in the court’s computer system, investigators learned there were numbers that didn’t match those on the computer.
A court employee said Thompson “was making adjustments in the full court system so the records would financially balance.”
But initial findings “indicated there was $1,913 suspected to be missing and an additional $1,260.74 of suspicious transactions that had not been researched,” the document says.
Records indicate there was $40,516 adjusted by Thompson, but the charging document does not say how much if any of that was actually missing.
The city of Dillon hired an outside accountant to do a complete audit of the city court but it had not been completed by the time charges were filed on Jan. 8.
Although Thompson resigned in August, it was too late to remove her name from the ballot in a city election last November. Regardless, Kaylan Minor was elected city judge.