COLUMBUS — The former coordinator of Platte County’s victim's assistance and adult diversion programs has been charged with multiple felonies after more than $10,000 was unaccounted for during a routine state audit of the office in August.
Special Prosecutor Joseph Smith said Thursday morning he filed two counts of theft and one of tampering against 43-year-old Traci Nelsen in Platte County Court following a Nebraska State Patrol investigation.
The charges allege the financial irregularities began in August 2015.
Nelsen, who was not arrested or booked into the county jail on the felonies, is scheduled for a first appearance hearing Oct. 18 in county court.
Smith said the investigation revealed “well over $10,000” was unaccounted for in the county’s adult diversion program. The special prosecutor, who also serves as the Madison County attorney, said the probe involved a single individual, not the entire office.
Nelsen abruptly left her job on Aug. 24.
The theft charges are Class 2A felonies, each punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment. The tampering with physical evidence charge is a Class IV felony with a penalty of up to two years in prison, 12 months of post-release supervision and a $10,000 fine.
Smith said the Platte County Attorney’s Office and State Patrol continue to work hard putting together evidence to support the charges in the ongoing investigation.
Nelsen was previously convicted of similar criminal charges in Kansas.
The Monroe woman voluntarily surrendered her license to practice law there after being convicted of theft and false reporting in Johnson County, Kansas. Both criminal convictions were for misdemeanor offenses.
When Nelsen was disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court in June 2003, she was facing a formal complaint filed against her by the state’s disciplinary administrator’s office.
Nelsen was hired as the local victim's assistance coordinator in 2009 by then-Platte County Attorney Sandra Allen and named coordinator of the newly created adult diversion program in April 2014.
The county provided $12,000 in startup money for the adult diversion program with hopes that it would be financially self-sustaining from there, but that hasn't happened.
County supervisors transferred $25,000 from the inheritance tax fund into the adult diversion account in December 2015 and authorized another $10,000 transfer in December 2016 after the balance dipped to $1,198.
The adult diversion account had a balance of $1,457 as of July 31 before the supervisors voted earlier this month to funnel another $12,000 into the program.
The diversion program is designed for first-time adult offenders who commit minor offenses. Participants are referred to the program by the county attorney’s office and apply for admittance. After completing the program, criminal charges are dismissed.
Participants pay fees that are used to support the program. However, those fees can be reduced or waived based on a participant's income.