More details have been released concerning Steven Jones, a Northwestern School Corp. school board member and current Galveston town marshal who was arrested Feb. 6 on charges related to fraud.
Jones is facing a Level 6 felony charge of delivery of a false sales document and a misdemeanor charge of possession of a fraudulent sales document, stemming from an investigation into Jones’ role as a contracted bus driver for the corporation.
During his tenure as bus driver, the corporation installed GPS equipment on a bus owned by Jones, a release from the Indiana State Police stated, and it was retrieved after his contract ended in 2019.
The school district agreed to pay repair bills for some of the damage caused to the bus during the equipment’s installation.
The bus in question belonged to Jones’ wife, Kristy Jones, according to a probable cause affidavit filed with the Howard County Prosecutor’s Office.
Police later discovered that Jones then allegedly created fraudulent repair invoices and submitted them to the corporation for reimbursement, but the repairs were not completed as indicated on the invoices, the affidavit states.
The affidavit went on to state that Jones sent an invoice to the school corporation Director of Operations Jeff Layden showing a dashboard had been ordered at a cost of $138.32. While examining the invoice dated Dec. 20, 2019, Det. Mike Lorona contacted the equipment company the invoice supposedly came from. Richard Strange from Midwest Transit Equipment said the invoice did not come from them because the invoice format was not correct, according to the affidavit.
Jones didn’t order the dashboard until Dec. 30, 2019, court documents noted.
Northwestern’s Chief Financial Officer Jamie Bolser contacted Jones in October and again in December for a bus repairs invoice to add to the school’s 2019 budget.
On Dec. 28, Jones sent two invoices.
The first was the same invoice for the dashboard. The second, from Vince Lear of Tri-County Travel Trailers, was for $600 and related to repairs on the roof of the bus, including a welded closed hole in the roof, body filler and repair and painting the roof section to match.
While being questioned, Lear told Lorona the hole was tacked shut, grounded down, had body filler put on and was painted white. According to court documents, after being shown that the bus was never actually repaired, Lear was unsure what bus he fixed and didn’t remember providing Jones with a receipt until Lorona showed it to him.
When examining the bus, Lorona observed no welding or work that appears to have been done on the bus, the affidavit stated.
After being questioned again, Lear couldn’t actually confirm he had worked on the bus but stated he created an invoice at the direction of Jones and that Jones asked him to use the name of his wife, Kristy Jones, on the invoice, court documents state.
While being interviewed by Lorona on Jan. 10, Jones stated he created the Midwest Transit Equipment invoice. According to the affidavit, Jones said he received an estimate from Midwest Transit Equipment in July about the cost for dashboard repair. The invoice was dated as being created in June.
Jones told Lorona he ordered it in July and never saw it, assuming it was put into his wife’s bus. He told police he then reordered the dash on Dec. 30.
The affidavit stated that Jones also told Lorona he never checked to see if the hole in his wife’s bus was actually fixed but admitted to telling Lorona that he needed an invoice for tax purposes.
Jones has been a member of the Northwestern school board since 2013, and he was appointed in his position as Galveston town marshal in May 2019.
Last August, Jones filed a lawsuit against the school district after the corporation removed Jones’ bus route in a move that the school said at the time would save roughly $100,000 annually.
There is a final pretrial conference in that civil matter on April 10 in Howard Superior Court 2, and it’s unclear at this time what impact these new criminal charges will have on that case.
The jury trial for these recent charges is set to begin in May in Howard Superior Court 1.