Preliminary hearing to be held today for Safe Haven Director charged with theft

A preliminary hearing will be held in Scotts Bluff County Court early this afternoon for a 70 year old Bayard woman charged with the theft of state ward funds as Director of the Gering Safe Haven.

Judy Widener, who has posted $50,000 cash bond, was arrested earlier this month after the State Auditor's office uncovered questionable use of state ward funds.

State Auditor Mike Foley says private and public benefit funds intended for vulnerable Nebraskans were deposited instead into bank accounts controlled by Widener and then taken for her personal use. The audit team identified over $35,000 in funds that appear to have been taken by Widener, but the Nebraska State Patrol have also seized Widener's computers, cell phones, banking and financial records for a more in-depth investigation.

Widener made a recorded confession to authorities indicating that she knowingly misappropriated monies belonging to wards of the State.

Foley says Widener masked her alleged embezzlement through a complex array of credit cards and over 40 bank accounts containing more than $600,000.

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