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State fund for victims looted; ex-worker charged

By ED VOGEL

CARSON CITY — The attorney general’s office is prosecuting a former state employee on charges she looted the state Victims of Crime Program to give more than $50,000 to members of her family.

Tonya Walker, an employee of the program that compensates innocent people for their income loss and medical, funeral and other expenses, is scheduled to appear at an Oct. 21 preliminary hearing before District Judge John Bonaventure.

Walker was the compensation claims officer for the Victims of Crime Program office in Las Vegas.

She is charged with creating fictitious crimes, police reports, and medical and job records so that her husband, mother, stepfather and friends could receive payments.

Victims can receive as much as $50,000 to cover losses they suffered from crime. Funds come from assessments, fines and restitution paid by criminals under court orders.

The state Board of Examiners, chaired by Gov. Jim Gibbons, is scheduled to decide in a Tuesday meeting whether sufficient funds are available to cover claims of victims.

But Bryan Nix, who oversees the program, said Friday that the losses will not affect his agency’s ability to pay.

“We are in a real healthy position,” Nix said. “We have an $8 million budget for victims.”

Nix said the program has added requirements to prevent employees from stealing from the fund.

“This was an unfortunate situation,” he said. “We put in steps to stop it. Everything has been analyzed and corrected.”

Walker could not be reached for comment Friday.

Funds were taken, according to court records, between August 2007 and April 2008.

Deputy Attorney General John Kelleher said Friday that he has offered Walker a plea bargain to avoid a probable higher sentence if she would plead guilty to two felonies and make restitution to the state.

She has been charged with 20 felonies and could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Kelleher said he also has offered deals to her family members: stepfather Frank Nolton, mother Ernestine Hunter, husband Prentice Walker and friend Kimberly Morris.

All also have been charged with felonies on allegations that they schemed with Tonya Walker to secure the funds.

Kelleher said they have been offered plea bargains to plead guilty to one felony count and make restitution.

According to the criminal complaint, Nolton received $15,396, Hunter, $14,508, and Prentice Walker, $9,820, in Victims of Crime funds.

Numerous other people, including a brother, also were given funds, according to the document.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at [email protected] or 775-687-3901.

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