NDOT employee appears in court for arraignment | NevadaAppeal.com

NDOT employee appears in court for arraignment

Steve Puterski
sputerski@lahontanvalleynews.com
Tal Pierre Smith

A Fallon man accused of abusing purchasing privileges with the Nevada Department of Transportation appeared Thursday in Justice Court for his arraignment.

Tal Pierre Smith faces six felony charges on a suspicion of using a NDOT credit card to illegally purchase more than $250,000 worth of tools and other items he later pawned to fund a gambling addiction.

Smith is charged with one count of misconduct of a public officer, one count of fraudulent appropriation of property and four counts of theft, $3,500 or more.

In court, Smith, who is in custody, told Justice of the Peace Pro-Tem William Lawry he had no means to afford an attorney. Lawry appointed Jacob Sommer as legal counsel.

In addition, Lawry scheduled a status hearing for next Thursday and a preliminary hearing for May 1.

A call to NDOT seeking clarification on Smith’s employment status was not returned.

Smith is accused of making repeated illegal purchases and concealing them by altering receipts and other records from January 2010 through December 2013. According to the complaint and declaration of probable cause, the pattern was discovered when a chain saw was delivered to NDOT’s Fallon facility while Smith was on a hunting vacation. NDOT officials discovered that the invoice had been altered, and an investigation was ordered.

Attorney General’s Investigator Wayne Fazzino said in his declaration that he interviewed Smith, who “admitted using the NDOT purchase card to purchase items that he kept for personal use and/or sold for gambling monies.”

“Smith informed me he has a gambling problem and that he used the monies he generated from NDOT purchases to fund his gambling addition,” the court document charges.

Fallon police assisting in the investigation generated a list of 76 transactions by Smith at pawnshops and secondhand equipment businesses throughout Fallon, Fernley, Reno, Dayton and Carson City.

In addition, the records state investigators recovered more than a dozen tools from Smith’s property that he had kept.

Auditors who went through all the receipts from that credit card say the total amount taken was $250,639. Each of the four theft charges is a Category B felony punishable by one to 10 years in prison. Misconduct by a public officer and fraudulent appropriation of property are both significantly lower charges even though both are felonies.