CENTER, Mo. | The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri will be the lead law enforcement agency pursuing potential criminal charges against Tracey Ray, the former city clerk of Center.
An audit report compiled by Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway's office and released last week, revealed what auditors allege was embezzlement or misappropriations of funds totaling more than $316,000.
Ralls County Prosecuting Attorney Rodney Rodenbaugh said the audit covers a span of five years and state felony statutes would prohibit charges for crimes committed more than three years ago.
âFederal statutes are not as restrictive. Therefore, I reached out to federal Authorities,â Rodenbaugh said in a release on Wednesday.
âFollowing a series of briefings and discussions, I can now further announce that the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Missouri will be the lead law enforcement agency and the federal investigation into this matter will proceed in a thorough and deliberate manner.â
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorneyâs Office confirmed that the referral had been received.
During a meeting in Center last week, Mayor Dennis McMillen had assured residents that criminal charges would be pursued against Ray. Auditors allege that Ray used taxpayer money to personal expenses on credit cards, including trips to Las Vegas and Branson, concert tickets and numerous other vendors, including 666 separate purchases from Amazon.
Center fired Ray, who had been with the city since 2004, on July 3, 2019, after learning that she had failed to file mandatory city financial reports with the Missouri Department of Revenue for three straight years, despite telling the Board of Aldermen that reports had been filed.Â
As the board was voting to fire Ray, she was being treated in a St. Louis hospital for three gunshot wounds sustained in an exchange of gunfire in rural Ralls County on July 2. During that exchange, Ralls County sheriff's deputies said they returned fire after Ray allegedly shot a gun.
In the exchange, Ralls County Sheriff Gerry Dinwiddie and Ralls County Chief Deputy Ronald Haught were injured by bullet fragments and ground debris. Both received minor injuries.
Ray was later charged with four felonies related to the alleged shooting incident. Her case was moved to Boone County. She is currently free on $2,500 bond.