Former Stanislaus County court clerks formally charged in embezzlement cases

02/12/2014 2:22 PM

02/12/2014 5:20 PM

Prosecutors have filed charges against two former Stanislaus County Superior Court clerks accused of stealing thousands in cash from court fee payments.

Defendants Dawn Marie Rios of Riverbank and Barry James Lesko of Modesto have been charged with embezzlement by a public official and altering or destroying court records while on the job, both felonies.

Modesto police have said it appears Rios and Lesko were not working together on the embezzlement schemes, even though detectives say the money was stolen in a similar fashion. The defendants are being prosecuted separately.

Rios and Lesko have resigned from their jobs, according to court officials. They remain out of jail while awaiting prosecution.

They were arrested in late September. The Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office filed criminal complaints against the defendants Feb. 5.

Rios’ arraignment hearing has been scheduled for March 4, and Lesko has been scheduled to return to court March 19 for his arraignment.

Court officials conducted an internal investigation before they notified the Modesto Police Department of the suspected misconduct Sept. 26.

Rios worked as a court clerk at the downtown Modesto courthouse for 10 years and was responsible for collecting court filing fees. Lesko, a nine-year employee, worked at the court’s traffic division office on Floyd Avenue in east Modesto.

Police investigators have said the defendants accepted court fee payments and marked them as paid, but they later voided the transactions so they would not show on the register.

The investigation into Lesko began when a woman discovered she was sent to collections for failing to pay a court fee. She provided proof of payment to the court.

It was unclear how Rios’ suspected embezzlement was discovered, but investigators have said she is accused of stealing at least $4,000 last year. Lesko is suspected of stealing at least $2,400.

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