PRINCETON — Special Judge August Straus Thursday scheduled a four-day trial beginning April 8, 2019 in Gibson Circuit Court for a former advertising salesperson charged with 22 felony counts of theft, fraud and forgery.
Neely Held, 25, of Vincennes, appeared with defense attorney Patrick Duff for Thursday's progress hearing. The judge also scheduled a 9 a.m. March 13, 2019 progress conference with Duff and Gibson County Prosecutor Michael Cochren, and set a April 4 omnibus date for all filings.
Duff told the judge there's a substantial amount of evidence to review, and Cochren noted that given the amount of evidence in the case, a three or four-day trial would likely be needed if a resolution isn't reached.
The judge told attorneys that he can be contacted for an earlier hearing date if resolution is reached without going to trial.
Held was arrested in July on multiple charges, including one count of felony theft from Paxton Media Group, parent company of The Princeton Daily Clarion, Vincennes Sun-Commercial and Mount Carmel Register, for commission paid to her for unauthorized ads.
She is also charged with 14 counts of felony forgery and seven counts of felony fraud associated with her alleged use of customer credit cards.
Straus, a Vanderburgh County magistrate, was appointed special judge in the case after Gibson Circuit Judge Jeffrey Meade and Gibson Superior Court Judge Robert Krieg recused themselves from the case.
Cochren filed the 22 charges against Held following a Princeton Police Department investigation into a theft reported April 10 by PMG Regional Publisher Mike Weafer and Regional Advertising Director Courtney Shuttle.
Held resigned her position with the newspapers April 6 after Shuttle questioned her about reports of some unauthorized advertising.
Police allege in the affidavit of probable cause for seeking the charges that Held used customer credit cards to charge other business accounts, placed false ads and forged signatures on advertising contracts. She is also accused of creating two fake checks, using a customer’s credit card to buy personal items, and accepting sales commission for ads that were not authorized.
According to the police affidavit, the overcharges and unauthorized charges exceeded $125,000. The newspapers issued credits to businesses affected by Held’s alleged actions.
She is free on $1,500 cash bond.