Former Buffalo deputy clerk given suspended prison sentence, probation

Riki Ellen Harrington, 46, of Blue Grass, faces charges of ongoing criminal conduct, a Class B...
Riki Ellen Harrington, 46, of Blue Grass, faces charges of ongoing criminal conduct, a Class B felony punishable by up to 25 years in prison, and first-degree theft, a Class C felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (KWQC/Scott County Sheriff's Office)(KWQC)
Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 4:57 PM CDT
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SCOTT Co., Iowa (KWQC) - A former Buffalo deputy clerk was given a suspended 25-year prison sentence and placed on five years of probation for misappropriating thousands of dollars from the town.

In March, a Scott County jury found Riki Ellen Harrington, 47, guilty of ongoing criminal conduct, a Class B felony, and first-degree theft, a Class C felony.

If she completes probation, she will not have to serve the prison sentence.

According to an arrest affidavit, Harrington was a part-time deputy clerk for Buffalo from April 6, 2015, through Aug. 23, 2018.

During that time, she accepted cash payments from citizens and businesses for utility payments, permits, and various other city business.

According to the affidavit, Harrington misappropriated cash payments totaling approximately $42,390.12.

Her attorney, Ryan Beckenbaugh, argued Thursday for a deferred judgment, saying Harrington had a “completely spotless” criminal history before her conviction and had a consistent employment history.

A deferred judgment means the conviction would not be entered on a defendant’s record if he or she completes probation.

Harrington, through tears, also asked Judge Stuart Werling to consider a deferred judgment so she could continue to work to pay restitution.

“This has affected my life, it’s ruined my life,” she said.

She told Werling, “I’ve lost so much over this. I just don’t know how it would help anything to brand me a felon the rest of my life.”

Scott County Attorney Mike Walton recommended probation, noting that Harrington will have substantial restitution to make and that it would be “better served by her continuing to work.”

“Although she does not have a prior record, this was ongoing over several years,” he said. “Methodical taking of property. There were numerous opportunities over those years, two years approximately, to consider the actions, to change course.”

A deferred judgment is not appropriate, he argued.

“This was a long-term theft from an employer,” Walton said. “It’s a breach of trust, it’s a serious matter, it’s a substantial amount of money.”

Werling said Harrington’s lack of criminal history and the fact that this was a non-violent offense weighed heavily in her favor.

“But, it was an ongoing, continuous theft and violation of her trust as a public employee and her trust as a member of the community that went on over a period of years. "

Werling said there is “no doubt that this conviction is going to add wreckage to the defendant’s life.”

“But that wreckage was self-inflicted, as found by the jury that the defendant intentionally, knowingly, consciously, repeatedly over a period of time stole money from the residents of the community that she was required to serve.”

Werling ordered Walton to submit a claim for restitution within 30 days.

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