ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Memorial Gardens manager Vickie Ringley was arrested Thursday afternoon on a lone count of felony forgery, but police say that may be just the tip of the iceberg.
Over the past several months more than 20 people had filed complaints against Ringley with the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office claiming she took money — in some cases thousands of dollars — for services such as buying and placing grave stones which hadn’t been performed.
The HCSO stated publicly that an investigation was conducted on the complaints and criminal charges weren’t possible based in the evidence.
On Thursday, HCSO Detective Ken Sturgill admitted that was a ruse, intended to lead Ringley to believe the investigation against her was completed and she’d dodged a bullet.
In fact, an investigator with the Third Judicial District Attorney General’s Office has long since joined the HCSO looking into allegations of fraud on the part of Ringley pertaining to her operation of the cemetery.
“The amount of paper work involved in this type of investigation is overwhelming, and we needed to buy some time,” Sturgill said. “We were very grateful when the attorney general’s office joined this investigation. The investigation is ongoing, and producing results, and I believe the victims will receive justice.”
But, that’s only peripherally related to the forgery charge for which Ringley was arrested on Thursday by the HCSO.
Ringley, 52, 536, Carters Valley Loop, Rogersville, was accused of altering a check for $66.25 that she received on Jan.16.
A Rogersville woman making a payment for two cemetery plots had made the check out to the Hawkins County Memorial Gardens.
Ringley allegedly used correction fluid to blot out the cemetery name, and then write in her own name before attempting to cash it at a Rogersville bank.
The Rogersville Police Department received a similar complaint last week which was turned over to the attorney general’s office, but no charge had been filed on that complaint as of Thursday evening.
Sturgill said the original plan was to lump the forgeries in with pending charges from the other investigations. Later it was decided to go ahead and charge Ringley with forgery due to it being a felony, and only vaguely related to the other complaints.
In Thursday’s edition, the Times-News ran an article about the new forgery complaints.
Late Thursday morning, Ringley sent an email to the Times-News stating, “This is crazy. I had to pick up two checks and have two people stop payment on them because I going thru a divorce and my soon to be ex had them in his pocket to cash and they wouldn’t be credited to their account. Two people I had to pick up new checks from which you are welcome to contact.”
Ringley was already in jail by the time the Times-News attempted to contact her for further elaboration on her comments.
As of Thursday evening a bond hadn’t been set. She is scheduled for arraignment Monday in Sessions Court.
Forgery is a Class E felony punishable by 1-2 years in prison.