City worker accused of stealing cemetery money

More than $100,000 missing
Apr. 18, 2014 @ 08:08 AM

A woman who worked at Blue Ridge Cemetery is accused of embezzling more than $100,000 from cemetery funds.

Sherry Lynn Phillips Nichols, 48, of Powell Road was charged with embezzlement by employee. Nichols worked as a customer service representative at the cemetery, 2017 Wilkesboro Blvd., handling the sales of cemetery plots. Lenoir owns the cemetery, so Nichols was a city employee.

All purchases of lots at the cemetery have been accounted for, and no cemetery customers will be affected, City Manager Lane Bailey said.

Bailey and Lenoir police would not say exactly how the money was taken, but Bailey said Lenoir Finance Director Danny Gilbert discovered about three weeks ago that the cemetery's money was falling short.

"The numbers looked to be off," Bailey said. "Danny contacted Sherry and told her something was not looking right."

The thefts may have occurred over a three-year period, he said.

Nichols was fired March 28, the same day the matter was turned over to the Lenoir Police Department.

Nichols's arrest is not related to the theft of nearly 140 bronze vases from grave sites, which was reported on March 3, police Capt. Couby Stilwell said.

Nichols turned herself in at the Caldwell County magistrate's office Thursday morning. Her bond was set at $50,000 secured.