Former elected official jailed, chided by judge for missing restitution payments

A former Jonesville clerk-treasurer who stole town funds over a seven-year period has been ordered to jail.

After failing to make restitution payments for almost a year, Melissa Schultheis, 43, of 206 Market St., Jonesville, was ordered Thursday by senior judge Stephen Heimann to spend 30 days in the Bartholomew County Jail. That order comes eight years after Schultheis received a suspended 15-year sentence.

Since the court order provides considerations including good time credit, as well as the eight days she served in jail nine years ago, Schultheis is expected to spend no more than a few weeks behind bars.

However, modifications to her probation are likely to result in “significant changes to her lifestyle going forward,” Bartholomew County prosecutor Bill Nash said.

While Schultheis was originally supposed to remain on probation until 2024, Heimann ordered Thursday that the suspended sentence be extended another three years.

A state audit in late 2007 first revealed that Jonesville was missing thousands of dollars in its accounts. Schultheis, who served as Jonesville clerk-treasurer from September 1998 to January 2008, was subsequently arrested.

When she pleaded guilty almost a year later to 10 counts of theft, her explanation caused divisions within the Wayne Township community of about 200 residents.

Some angry residents said the thefts left the town financially devastated. But others, such as long-time town board member Michele Rodriquez, expressed sympathy after Schultheis said the money went toward her children’s medical bills.

One of her three children was born prematurely, and another suffered from a rare blood disorder, Schultheis testified in 2008.

But the reasons Schultheis stated in court last month for falling $3,074 behind in her payments after Feb. 11 of last year provoked a stern response from the judge Thursday.

“The court finds the defendant has zero credibility … that she lies and is dishonest and has been throughout the course of these proceedings,” Heimann said during Thursday’s hearing.

In total, the defendant still owes $76,200 to the town of Jonesville plus interest, Heimann determined.

During a Jan. 19 hearing before Heimann, Schultheis claimed her monthly restitution payments of $300 had been lowered by the court to $200 a month in July 2015.

But court documents show no record of that reduction. Heimann confirmed Thursday the payments would be $300 a month going forward, with the first due March 15.

Last month, Indiana Deputy Attorney General John Phillipp asked the court for wage garnishments. In response, Schultheis said the employer who pays her $160 a week as a part-time floral designer does not take withholdings out of her pay, nor provide her with records of payments.

On Thursday, Heimann ordered Schultheis must complete 24 hours of community service per week during any week in which she is not employed at least 35 hours per week at a job that withholds taxes and provides a W2 or other comparable tax documents.

Heimann also ordered her to bring her monthly pay records to her probation officer during regular appointments. She also will be required to provide a written report from a physician if she’s unable to work due to a medical condition.

While the criminal court judgment against Schulthesis was reduced to a civil judgment in 2013, this was the third time a petition to revoke Schultheis’ probation had been filed after she fell behind in restitution.

In the first two cases, the petition was dismissed after she was able to catch up on her payments.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.