FARMINGTON — Melissa Mead sat at her desk at the Bloomfield Motor Vehicle Department last month scratching lottery tickets.

When customers asked for help, Mead told them someone would be with them shortly. And then she scratched more tickets.

"That was the moment when we were like, wow'," said Cecilia Gunnell, a department clerk.

Gunnell's suspicions grew and she began documenting her boss' behavior. Those documents, obtained by the Daily Times, are now part of a second-degree felony embezzlement case against Mead.

"To be fair, at first she was great," Gunnell said. "But then you could start to see that her (gambling) problem was very serious."

Mead, 34, was arrested Wednesday for suspicion of stealing $24,000 from the department. She arrived at the jail at 8:20 p.m. to turn herself in and was released an hour later. She did not have to post a bond, according to jail records.

Police said she confessed to stealing cash from the department and taking it to a local casino where she lost the money, according to court documents.

Gunnell's meticulous notes helped in Mead's arrest, said Chad Herrera, a Bloomfield Police detective.

When Mead would duck out of work to go to the casino, Gunnell wrote it in her notes, according to court documents.

Reached by phone Thursday, Mead deferred questions to her attorney, Steve Murphy.

Murphy said he had yet to closely review the allegations against his client.


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Police "said there was an audit and there is some money missing and we're going to get to the bottom of it," he said. "If there is money missing we believe there are other people police need to look at."

Mead was hired in September as a temporary office manager, city officials said.

In late October, Gunnell started documenting Mead's work behavior.

Bloomfield Mayor Scott Eckstein said that action may have saved taxpayers money because it helped bring the theft to light.

"It think it was courageous," he said. "I wish we had more citizens and employees who stood up like her and did what they thought was right."

According to Gunnell's notes, on Oct. 31, Mead left work early. She called in sick Nov. 13 and 14.

On Nov. 27 she left work at 3 p.m. to take her son to the doctor. Gunnell could hear slot machines ringing in the background when Mead called to check on the department 30 minutes later.

On Nov. 28 she didn't come into work because her son was sick. The next day she didn't come into work because she was sick.

In December, the trips to the casino became more frequent, according to court records.

On Dec. 3 she left work before 4 p.m. Two days later she left work before 2 p.m.

Dec. 6 she spent 30 minutes of her time at work scratching lottery tickets and left 30 minutes before the department closed. On Dec. 7 she left work at 9:30 a.m. and called throughout the day from the casino to check on her employees.

Mead didn't try to hide her gambling habit. Employees told investigators that Mead was always bragging about her winnings and spoke fondly of going to Sun Ray Park and Casino -- her lucky casino -- every day, according to court documents.

Gunnell said she suspected Mead was stealing money but took notes because she wanted to be positive before reporting her thoughts to city officials.

"I absolutely, without flinching, suspected she was stealing money, but I didn't know for sure," she said. "It was not easy. It was hard and stressful."

Gunnell reported her suspicion to the city administrators on Dec. 27. The department was closed the next day so police and the state Taxation and Revenue Department officials could investigate, according to court documents.

Bloomfield Finance Director Brad Ellsworth said Mead made $19.23 per hour and, because she was a temporary employee, she was not paid for time off.

She often would request time for doctors appointments and family events and now officials suspect she was actually going to the casino. There are other times when officials suspect she was claiming to be working but was really at the casino, he said. 

Police said Mead was taking cash directly from the department and altering financial reports before checks and deposit slips were sent to the revenue department, Herrera said. Some days she wouldn't send the daily deposit report.

Mead allegedly told Herrera she intended to pay back the city's money after she hit it big at the casino.

"Hopefully she was going to double the money and put it back the next day," Herrera said. "But she wasn't."