The former St. Johns County Tax Collector’s Office employee accused of stealing thousands of dollars from customers over a roughly 10-year period, began her stint in jail Tuesday
Melissa Jaudon Bush, 54, said little during the morning court session at the St. Johns County courthouse where she was sentenced by Circuit Judge Howard Maltz.
She pleaded no contest, as part of a plea agreement, in late November to a single count of organized scheme to defraud amid allegations that she had been overcharging customers for driver’s licenses, car tags and title transactions and keeping the difference in cash.
Per the terms of her agreement, adjudication of guilt will be withheld and Bush will spend the next 180 days in the St. Johns County jail, the last part of which will be spent in the jail’s drug treatment program.
Upon her release, she will spend the remainder of five years on drug offender probation and be required to pay $17,389 in restitution to the Tax Collector’s Office, for what court paperwork calls “cost of investigation.”
Bush was arrested Aug. 11 on the fraud charge after a months-long investigation by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.
Bush’s arrest warrant and associated offense report said that the investigation found that she stole $13,433.53 from 593 people.
According to her arrest warrant, in a June 6 meeting with authorities and her attorney, Bush, who was hired by the Tax Collector’s Office in 2007, and last worked at the Ponte Vedra Beach branch, said that she took the money to support a drug habit and that she had been conducting the illegal transactions the entire time she worked there.
Prosecutors never filed charges for a single count of official misconduct that was included in the warrant.
A news release from Tax Collector Dennis Hollingsworth’s office at the time of Bush’s arrest said she had been fired in April after a “random transaction audit” turned up “possible irregularities” that were later determined to be “part of a pattern.”
The release said the subsequent investigation and discoveries “prompted a complete review of procedures regarding monetary transactions,” and that customers who were found to have been overcharged would receive a refund for the overcharged portion of their transaction.
“Several new measures have been put in place as a result of this discovery, including regular, random audits of customer service representatives tills, random drug screening, automated change machines, enhanced security surveillance and supervisor training,” the release said.