Ken Paxton

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Falls County Tax Assessor Collector Indicted On Charges Of Falsifying Tax Records

MARLIN - Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Criminal Law Enforcement prosecutors presented evidence to a grand jury on Wednesday, resulting in a three-count state jail felony indictment against Falls County Tax-Assessor Collector Kate Vande Veegaete. The indictment alleges she defrauded Falls County, the city of Marlin, and the Marlin Independent School District by altering government documents and failing to collect nearly $10,000 in delinquent property taxes.

Vande Veegaete, 57, was indicted by a Falls County grand jury on one count of misapplication of fiduciary property and two counts of tampering with a governmental record. A surety bond was set at $15,000.

Public trust in our elected and appointed officials forms the foundations of government and democracy, and that trust includes accurate appraisals of property and improvements, said Attorney General Abbott. We will continue to pursue this investigation to obtain a full accounting of the public’s money. I appreciate the continued cooperation of Falls County District Attorney Jody Gilliam and County Judge Tom Sehon in helping us ensure that justice is served.

According to the indictment, Vande Veegaete illegally altered the appraisal values of property owned by Eva Joyce Burks, the mother of Falls County Deputy Chief Appraiser Candace Grams, in an attempt to quash a tax judgment placed against Burks’ property due to unpaid taxes from 1993 through 2001.

The Attorney General alleges that in late July 2004, Vande Veegaete reduced and eliminated the value of improvements on Burks’ property and lowered the appraised value of the land for tax years 1993 through 2004, effectively reducing the balance on the outstanding tax judgment and cheating the public of proper tax proceeds.

The indictment also alleges that Vande Veegaete failed to cash a check issued by the lien holder on Burks’ property in the amount of $9,538.52 for the full sum of the delinquent taxes, penalties, interest and other costs owed. To explain why the check was being returned uncashed and to hide her tampering with Burks’ tax records, prosecutors contend that Vande Veegaete created a fraudulent installment agreement and sent the false document to the lien holder to make it appear that Burks had entered into a payment plan with the Falls County Tax Office.

Today’s indictment is the second handed down in an ongoing investigation into alleged irregularities in the Falls County Appraisal District. In August, District Attorney Jody Gilliam obtained an indictment against Grams for multiple charges of theft and other offenses after an investigation that also uncovered the possible involvement of Veegaete.

The Texas Attorney General’s office intervened in the investigation and prosecution at the request of Gilliam and County Judge Tom Sehon. Investigators served a search warrant on Vande Veegaete’s office on Sept. 29.

A state jail felony conviction can result in confinement of six months to two years and may include up to a $10,000 fine.