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Former Eldridge city clerk pleads guilty to theft of city funds

Denise Benson must pay restitution to the City of Eldridge for a total of $36,346.20.

ELDRIDGE, Iowa — Former Eldridge city clerk Denise Benson has made a plea deal with the State of Iowa after being accused of theft of city money, according to court documents filed Friday, Sept. 8.

Benson pled guilty to one count of theft in the 1st degree (a class C felony), and one count of nonfelonious misconduct in office (serious misdemeanor). In exchange, the state dropped charges on unauthorized use of a credit card, identity theft, and forgery. 

As part of the plea agreement, Benson has agreed to pay victim restitution to the City of Eldridge for a total of $36,346.20.

Benson was arrested and formally charged in June 2023 after a state audit showed she spent over $84,500 of city money on personal expenses.

The Scott County Sheriff's Office said a search warrant was executed at her home on June 2 where they recovered property including "several items" that were evidence in the audit report.

"Benson did use the city-owned credit card to make unauthorized, personal purchases from Amazon, PayPal, Menards, AmeriGas, and other various vendors to acquire property," a criminal complaint states.

Iowa State Auditor Rob Sand's report identified $76,171 of improper payments and $8,718 of unsupported payments.

Benson purchased more than $42,000 of personal items on the city's credit card. This includes more than $29,000 in Amazon purchases for items such as men's underwear, children's toys, and Hillary Clinton toilet paper.

There were also nearly $2,000 of PayPal purchases including artwork and items at Bass Pro Shops, and more than $32,000 of purchases to other businesses using the city's bank account.

Benson allegedly purchased gas for her personal vehicle using the city's credit card 10 different times. She also billed herself for 30 hours of work for a meeting that should have only been recorded as one hour, according to city officials. 

Benson was fired in October 2022 for allegedly misusing city funds.

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