Former college official arrested

Stephens says director quit after questioned about credit card fraud.
Friday, December 5, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:51 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A former Stephens College department head faces a felony charge of stealing. She is accused of using a school credit card for unauthorized charges or $25,000 or more.

Rita Worley, 43, former director of campus computing and telecommunications at Stephens, was arraigned Thursday afternoon in Boone County Associate Circuit Court and charged with a class B felony of stealing.

Following the arraignment, Worley was formally arrested and processed by Columbia police, then released on $5,000 bond. Her next court date is Monday at 10:30 a.m. Neither Worley nor her attorney, David Eblen, could be reached for comment.

Court documents detailing the charges state that Worley used a college credit card to make unauthorized purchases of “clothing and other items.” The total amount of the purchases has not been disclosed, but court documents place it at “well over $25,000.”

Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Kevin Crane said the class B felony Worley is charged with is the “highest level felony for stealing.” It is punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison.

As head of her department, Worley was in charge of the campus computer and phone networks and was issued the card to buy items such as computers, said campus spokeswoman Amy Gipson.

Because of the ongoing criminal proceedings, Gipson declined to say when the college first began its own internal investigation. Court documents show that the thefts stretched over a period of almost three years, from January 2001 through the end of September 2003.

Worley resigned after campus officials confronted her in October. The investigation’s findings were then turned over to Columbia police.

Neither Gipson nor Crane would reveal the exact amount Worley is alleged to have stolen, saying only that it was more than $25,000. In a statement to police, Worley said the amount the college alleges she fraudulently charged was correct. Gipson said the college expects the losses to be covered by insurance.

Although Worley’s was the only case found on campus in which a card was misused, Gipson said the college’s credit card policy has been revised as a result of the incident. Effective Nov. 30, fewer than 15 people — mostly employees whose jobs include travel — are now authorized to use the college’s credit cards. Almost 40 employees carried the cards before the change.

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