A now-former employee of the Utah agency that manages emergency communications in the state, and a relative, are accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Patricia Nelson, who was the administrative assistant to Utah Communications Authority's executive director, Steven Proctor, was fired after an investigation found more than $800,000 charged to the agency's credit account. The Utah Communications Authority filed a lawsuit on March 4 against Nelson and her daughter Crystal Evans.

The Utah Communications Authority is primarily responsible for managing the 911 program and other emergency communications. It also operates emergency radio networks in the state.

In January, the agency's board discovered unauthorized use of its credit card account, according to the statement. The board also found that someone had tried to manipulate the account's statements to conceal the misuse, and the board hired a firm to investigate.

The investigation found that at least four agency credit cards, "all of which were in Nelson and/or Evans' possession," had personal and unauthorized charges from as early as July 2009, according to the lawsuit. The charges amounted to more than $800,000, including about $365 spent at PetSmart and about $360 spent at Toys R Us, the lawsuit adds.

"The Board is aggressively pursuing both criminal and civil remedies against the former employee responsible for the unauthorized charges," the statement reads. "In particular, the Board filed a civil suit and has obtained signed statements of admission in support of a proposed judgment for all amounts at issue."

Proctor has resigned in the wake of the findings, and the agency hired a new accounting firm to handle its finances.

mmcfall@sltrib.com

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