Ex-county aide given probation in embezzlement

$366,000 to be repaid at $300 a month, circuit judge orders

Posted: November 24, 2017 at 1:03 a.m.

HOT SPRINGS -- A county judge's former administrative assistant, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to misusing the county's credit card, was sentenced to 20 years' probation and ordered to pay more than $366,000 in restitution after a short court hearing Wednesday in Garland County.

Kristi Lyn Goss, 44, pleaded guilty Sept. 11 to six felony counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, including two counts involving amounts more than $25,000, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and four counts involving amounts more than $5,000, punishable by up to 10 years.

Goss, who was arrested Oct. 25, 2016, and later released on $50,000 bond, was represented by Public Defender Lee Short of Little Rock. Special prosecutor Jack McQuary, of the state office of the prosecutor coordinator in Little Rock, represented the state. Circuit Judge John Homer Wright presided over the sentencing hearing.

Garland County Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Lawrence said Goss will have to pay $300 a month toward her restitution. She also has to take a copy of her income tax filing every year to her probation officer so the court can track her financial resources.

"If she gets a raise, changes her employment or comes into some money at some point, that could increase the amount she is paying. They made sure there was a mechanism for that," Lawrence said.

Goss was convicted as a habitual offender and could face up to the maximum time in prison if she violates her probation in the next 20 years, Lawrence said.

Goss had been employed by Garland County since 2004, starting under former County Judge Larry Williams, and was officially terminated June 3, 2016. She reportedly left her position at the end of May 2016 after the fraud allegations came to light.

According to the affidavit filed by Arkansas State Police Special Agent David Moss, who was assigned the case July 1, 2016, Goss fraudulently charged about $200,000 worth of items, including personal bill payments, to a Garland County credit card that was obtained in December 2011.

Garland County Comptroller Susan Ashmore discovered the discrepancies in May 2016 after Goss failed to pay county bills on time. Legislative Auditor Jimmy Locke discovered 3,722 charges made on the card between December 2011 and May 2016 and confirmed $70,523.64 in personal purchases made by Goss.

Some of the confirmed personal purchases included payments to Entergy for her electric bills, to AT&T for her cellphone bills, tickets to Arkansas Razorbacks games, car payments, her personal real estate taxes, hotel gift cards, a diamond bracelet, sequined throw pillows and a tuxedo for her dog.

According to a pre-sentencing report filed with Arkansas Community Correction, Goss said one of her jobs was "to write up all the claims to pay bills for several offices within the county," and she noticed how some people "would get by with personal purchases."

She said that one afternoon one of her children called to tell her the water had been shut off at their residence and "she panicked" because she wasn't getting paid for several more days, so she paid the bill with the county credit card, according to the report. She said she "had honest intentions" to pay it all back on payday, but never did.

She said she then realized "how easy it was" and started paying "more and more bills" with county funds, according to the report. She said "all the family bills were on her" and "she was raising five kids and the bills kept piling up."

"The stress of supporting her entire household was too much for her," the report cited her as saying.

Goss also said she "will regret this for the rest of her life and wishes she could do it all over again."

NW News on 11/24/2017