County Exec to Prison for Losing Funds to Scam

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The former treasurer of Alcona County, Mich., was sentenced to 9-14 years in prison Tuesday for stealing county funds and losing them in phony Nigerian investments.

Thomas Katona pleaded guilty in May to eight counts of embezzlement, two of forgery and one of attempted embezzlement. Judge William F. Myles gave him the maximum punishment on each count.

"Mr. Katona's actions not only affected the county as a whole but every single citizen in the county," said Matt Frendewey, spokesman for state Attorney General Mike Cox, whose office prosecuted the case.

Katona, 56, was charged in January with siphoning money from an investment pool belonging to the rural Lake Huron County where he was treasurer, an elected post, from 1993 until he was fired last year.

State police said he authorized wire transfers totaling $186,500 last summer to overseas accounts linked to a notorious Nigerian scam. They suspect he lost more than $1.2 million in county funds altogether, plus $72,500 of his own money, despite a warning from his bank that he might be getting swindled.

Katona pleaded guilty to two felonies in 1998 after falsifying documents for private accounting clients. Under his plea bargain, the charges were dismissed after he stayed out of trouble for a year.

Voters re-elected him in 2000 and 2004.