Federal case

Meredith Atwell, 39, of Huttig was sentenced Wednesday to 54 months in federal prison.

Meredith Atwell, 39, of Huttig was sentenced Wednesday to 54 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release on one count of wire fraud and one count of possession of a prohibited object in prison.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan O. Hickey presided over the sentencing hearings in federal court at El Dorado.

According to information filed by U.S. Attorney Duane “Dak” Kees, Atwell was employed by South Arkansas Substance Abuse treatment center (SASA) in 2015 when she began converting the non-profit’s funds for her personal use by printing out corporate checks and forging the signatures of SASA board members.

Atwell continued this embezzlement from SASA into 2016 and stole over $140,000 from the non-profit before the financial condition of the company deteriorated and it finally closed.

The embezzlement from SASA came to light during the larger Western District of Arkansas United States Attorney’s Office investigation into the State of Arkansas’s General Improvement Fund (GIF) expenditures from Act 791 sponsored by State Senator Jon Woods in 2013. SASA had received more than $600,000 in GIF funds from Act 791 in 2013 and the investigation into the expenditure of those funds revealed Atwell’s diversion of those funds for her own use.

While Atwell was incarcerated on charges relating to her plea to the wire fraud charges against SASA, she was also convicted of possessing a prohibited object (methamphetamine) while in prison.

Atwell pled guilty on August 24, 2017 on the wire fraud charges and pled guilty to a later indictment on the prohibited object charge on August 9, 2018.

The case was investigated by the Union County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshal Service, and prosecuted by Ben Wulff.

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