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Former Sweetwater controller indicted for stealing nearly $120K from assisted living facility

Wood Presbyterian Home is an 89-bed nonprofit assisted living facility that is funded by Medicare, Medicaid (TennCare), private insurance, and personal payments.
Credit: Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury

MONROE COUNTY, Tenn. — A Sweetwater woman was indicted this month for stealing almost $118,768 from Wood Presbyterian Home, Inc. in Sweetwater, Tennessee, over a four-year period. 

Mariam Renee Wells allegedly stole the money from March 1, 2014, to May 31, 2018, while she was the controller for the assisted living facility. 

Credit: MCSO
Miriam Renee Wells

Wood Presbyterian Home is an 89-bed nonprofit assisted living facility that is funded by Medicare, Medicaid (TennCare), private insurance, and personal payments, according to the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson.

The controller is responsible for accounting records and financial reporting.

"Wells was able to steal the money by keeping cash that she was supposed to deposit in the facility’s bank account," the comptroller's office said. "Because Wells was also responsible for the reconciling bank statements with the accounting records, she was able to avoid detection for more than four years."

In May 2018, the comptroller's office said Wells became concerned that her theft was about to be discovered and she informed the facility’s executive director that she had embezzled at least $20,000. 

During that same meeting, authorities said she tendered a $20,000 personal check and resigned from her position effective May 31, 2018. 

"Wells later admitted to Comptroller investigators that she stole cash for her personal use and further admitted that the Comptroller’s calculation of $118,768 in stolen money was 'probably correct,'" the comptroller's office said.

The Monroe County Grand Jury indicted Wells on one count of theft over $60,000 in January 2020. 

“It’s vital that government entities, nonprofits, and other organizations separate financial responsibilities between more than one individual,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “In this case, the same person responsible for the accounting records was also involved in preparing cash for deposit, taking the cash to the bank, and performing bank reconciliations.”

If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at 800.232.5454, or file a report online at: comptroller.tn.gov/hotline.