FORMER SHERIFF'S OFFICE EMPLOYEE ARRESTED FOR UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD
A former employee of the Baxter County Sheriff's Office has been arrested and booked into the Detention Center on unemployment fraud charges following a joint investigation between the Baxter County Sheriff's Office and the Arkansas State Police.
MICHELLE DAWN HOOD, 52 years old of Norfork, Arkansas, surrendered herself to the Detention Center Tuesday afternoon, February 8th, to be served with a bench warrant that had been issued for her arrest.
The criminal investigation was initiated after the Baxter County Government had been notified that MICHELLE HOOD had received unemployment benefits charged against Baxter County. At the time MICHELLE HOOD applied for and received these unemployment benefits she was employed full time by the Baxter County Sheriff's Office and had sustained no loss of wages or income from Baxter County during the period of time in question. Arkansas Workforce Services notified the Baxter County Human Resources Office that over a period of time stretching from the first quarter of 2020 through May, 2021, $30,762.00 in unemployment benefits had been paid to MICHELLE HOOD that were charged against Baxter County. The Baxter County Human Resources Office had already informed Arkansas Workforce Services in writing in July, 2020 that the unemployment charges against Baxter County by MICHELLE HOOD to that point were fraudulent.
Arkansas Workforce Services subsequently requested that the Baxter County Human Resources Office conduct a wage audit for the period of 03/23/2020 through 04/23/2021 on MICHELLE HOOD. This audit was completed on 05/07/2021 and returned to Arkansas Workforce Services.
On May 28, 2021, MICHELLE HOOD was placed on a period of indefinite unpaid suspension of employment by the Sheriff's Office pending the receipt of items of documentary evidence that had been requested from Arkansas Workforce Services. MICHELLE HOOD was subsequently discharged from her employment with the Baxter County Sheriff's Office for cause on 06/04/2021 after this documentation had been received and reviewed. These records indicated that MICHELLE HOOD had falsified state unemployment application documents in order to receive unemployment benefits that she was not entitled to.
At this point, the case file was turned over to the Arkansas State Police to pursue further, with the Sheriff's Office cooperating and assisting with the investigation as needed. A warrant for her arrest was issued on 01/26/2022, and MICHELLE HOOD was booked into the Detention Center this afternoon, 02/08/2022, on one count of Theft of Public Benefits, a Class B Felony. She was released from custody after posting $2,500 bond and will appear before the Baxter County Circuit Court later this month.
MICHELLE HOOD was employed by the Sheriff's Office as a secretary from 12/01/2014 to 06/04/2021.
/s/ John F. Montgomery,
Baxter County Sheriff