Former Dierks water clerk Cheryl DeLaRosa was officially sentenced Wednesday, July 9 to six years in the state prison system for taking more than half-million dollars from city accounts.
DeLaRosa, white female, 61, did fulfill her part of a plea agreement in which she was required to plead guilty to one count of theft of property and one count of abuse of office and pay the city back $130,000 plus $34,000 of her city retirement. According to court officials, the process to secure DeLaRosa’s retirement funds is underway. She is currently in the county jail awaiting transfer to the Arkansas Department of Correction.
DeLaRosa also received a 24-year suspended sentence that will be activated if she fails to pay the remaining $337,000 of her penalty following her release from prison.
DeLaRosa was originally charged with six counts of theft of property and six counts of abuse of office with five of each of those charges dismissed, as part of the agreement. In addition to the six years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections, DeLaRosa will also have 20 years of supervised release.
The plea agreement, which was approved by the Dierks City Council and Mayor Ronnie Cogburn, included the guilty plea from DeLaRosa with the following stipulations:
– Admit she embezzled $501,193 from the city.
– Agree to repay the city a lump sum payment of $164,000 by Aug. 9 and forfeit her city retirement.
– Agree to be sentenced to six years in the Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) with an additional 20 years of supervised release.
– Agree to repay the remaining $337,000 upon her release from prison. If DeLaRosa had not paid back the $164,000 by her official sentencing date of Aug. 9, she agreed that the court could sentenced her to the maximum punishment in the ADC.
An investigation into DeLaRosa and the missing funds began in 2019 when Cogburn took office and discovered the water department had not been audited since 2014. The mayor instructed DeLaRosa to provide documents to the city’s accounting firm and when the money was determined to be missing Cogburn contacted the prosecutor and the Arkansas Legislative Audit.
An audit from Jan. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2020 concluded receipts exceeded deposits for cash by the following totals:
DeLaRosa resigned from her position on Jan. 25, 2021.
She was officially charged in Howard County on Sept. 28, 2021.