Seven years after she was fired and arrested for stealing $248,530 from Pulaski County's insurance provider, a former county employee has received a three-year suspended sentence for theft.
Court filings show that 67-year-old Wanda Wyatt pleaded guilty to Class D felony theft on Friday in exchange for the suspended sentence imposed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson. The charge carries up to six years in prison.
Under the conditions of her plea agreement, the theft count was reduced from a Class B felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors also dropped a second Class B theft along with two Class C felony forgery charges.
There was no restitution requirement. Wyatt has been represented by public defenders since her June 2016 arrest. She reported then she was indigent after losing her $12,000 per year clerk's position with the county's road and bridge department when she was caught.
Court records show Wyatt has lived in a Benton assisted living institution since February 2020. She is enrolled in the AR Choice Medicaid waiver program, paying her monthly Social Security and retirement income of $1,613 for room and board to the facility, which allots her a monthly $83 allowance.
The case has taken so long to resolve because Wyatt had been found by state doctors to be mentally incompetent to stand trial. That first diagnosis occurred in August 2017, about three months after suffering at least one stroke that required her to use a wheelchair and left her significantly impaired for years. Doctors only determined that she had recovered enough for trial -- in part because of her medication regime -- in July, court records show.
Authorities said Wyatt stole from the Central Arkansas Risk Management Association, an insurance pool of several area governmental bodies including Pulaski County, over two time periods: May 5, 2010, through Sept. 15, 2010, and July 5, 2013, through June 10, 2016. The second period ended about two weeks before her arrest.
Wyatt, who had worked for the county 17 years, was fired when sheriff's deputies confronted her about 80 checks from the risk management group she'd deposited into her personal account.
Investigators said that Wyatt took advantage of her position as the fleet service clerk for Road and Bridge in charge of handling all claims against the county for traffic collisions.
To steal, Wyatt would create fake collision reports to submit to the insurance company for payment showing the county to be at fault. She would then have the resulting settlement check sent to her office or arrange to pick it up herself.
The claimants on those checks would be fake identities she created using the names of relatives and even the names of county employees. Wyatt confessed when deputies confronted her with bank records from her account.