Former Southern Ind. sheriff accused of using taxpayer money, nonprofit resources for personal gain
Court records show former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel is accused of employing sheriff's office employees to work on his personal property and profiting from vehicles registered through a nonprofit business he operates.
Noel was arrested this week following a monthslong investigation by Indiana State Police. He was released Thursday on a $75,000 cash bond to await trial, scheduled for May 2024.
ISP began investigating allegations related to Noel in June, following an internal review by current Sheriff Scottie Maples, who took office at the start of the year.
In a statement sent to news media this week, Maples said in December 2022, he discovered a secret recording device in the office of the former Clark County Sheriff’s Office assistant chief, which “led directly” to Noel’s former office.
Maples said he then ordered an officewide review, which led to “more disturbing information.” That included potentially fraudulent documents providing a sheriff's office pension to a relative of Noel’s and reports that several employees had been required to work on Noel’s personal property while being paid by the sheriff's office.
Records show Noel sold or traded nonprofit’s vehicles for personal gain
On Aug. 16, months into the investigation, ISP served four warrants at Noel’s Jeffersonville home, a pole barn he owns and two locations of the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association, also known as New Chapel EMS, of which Noel served as CEO.
He was arrested Wednesday on 15 felonies, including corrupt business influence, theft, ghost employment, official misconduct and obstruction of justice. The latter charge is for Noel allegedly deleting information from his phone just before investigators seized it as part of the search.
The records released this week show he’s accused of trading multiple vehicles registered to the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association and registering the new vehicles to his name, in some cases selling them and depositing funds into his personal account.
This includes a May 2021 record of Noel trading a Corvette valued at $92,000, which was registered to the Utica department, for a Mercedes Benz investigators say he then registered to his name.
Investigators say money from these sold or traded vehicles resulted in “zero return” to the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association and “financial gain to Noel personally,” according to court records.
During the search investigators discovered at least 130 vehicles registered to either the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association or New Chapel EMS, including 24 “cars and SUVs which appeared inconsistent with a not-for-profit fire department and EMS business.”
Sheriff’s office staff worked on Noel’s personal property
Court records list four Clark County Sheriff's Office maintenance staff members who told investigators they were made to work on buildings associated with New Chapel or the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association, as well as Noel’s property — including fixing cars and working on construction of a pole barn that would later hold some of Noel’s personal car collection, which the employee estimated included around 100 vehicles.
One employee told investigators he “felt compelled to work on Mr. Noel’s private properties because his wife was ill and he needed health insurance,” according to court records.
Another employee reported he worked on Noel’s vehicles while either being paid by the sheriff’s office or the Utica department. Records show he received checks and federal tax forms from the volunteer fire department for this work.
The employee said he would often drive out of state to pick up vehicles for Noel’s private collection, using the jail’s truck, trailer and gasoline for the trips. He also said he at times transported vehicles to auctions or for resale, many of which were titled to the Utica department.
He also reported being given a credit card in Noel’s name marked “jail commissary fund” to buy parts for the vehicles.
Investigators say Noel used “complex layering schemes” by filtering financial transactions through different assumed business names, which they say is a technique used to make tracking the flow of money more difficult.
Noel’s employment with sheriff’s office and status as local, regional GOP leader
Noel served two terms as sheriff from 2015 to 2022. Current Sheriff Maples, who took office at the start of this year, served as chief deputy of the department under Noel.
In August, Maples said in a statement following warrants related to Noel being served that after taking office he ordered a “thorough review of the office, its budget, and much more,” which uncovered “evidence of troubling and potentially criminal behavior.” He said he then referred that evidence to ISP.
In another statement later that week, Maples said he also believed Noel was not entitled to paid leave time he had been receiving since his retirement and that the sheriff’s office “will not pay him any additional leave and will work with the state to claw back any funds that were improperly paid.”
Noel announced on social media in April that he had retired, and a separation of employment form dated April 10, 2023 showed his last anticipated regular duty workday would be June 30, 2023. He also checked a box requesting to use “remaining annual leave and compensatory time to extend on payroll.” His anticipated last day on payroll was previously set to be Jan. 25, 2024.
In 2022, Noel earned $169,450 as sheriff, according to Indiana Gateway.
The sheriff’s office confirmed he was making $78,341.11 annually when he started as a major with the department this year, before he retired.
During his entire tenure as sheriff and after, Noel has served as chair of the Clark County Republican Party, despite saying he would step down once he took office. He’s also served as party chair for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District.
Multiple attempts were made by LPM News to the Indiana Republican Party to determine whether he still holds either of these positions — both during the investigation and after his arrest. They had not been returned by Friday afternoon.
Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel is the special prosecutor in the case.
Noel was arrested Wednesday and transported to Scott County jail on no bond. During a nearly hourlong bond hearing Thursday before Special Judge Larry W. Medlock, Noel was assigned a $75,000 cash bond — more than double the $30,000 requested by Hertel. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
He posted that bond shortly after the hearing and was released from custody. As part of the conditions of his release, he was required to surrender his passport and all firearms except for one shotgun of his choosing. He is not to leave the state without permission.
Noel’s trial is currently scheduled for May 2024 in Clark County Circuit Court No. 1.
Noel and Maples were also featured on A&E’s docuseries “60 Days In,” in which actors went undercover in the Clark County jail.
The Indiana Department of Revenue and State Board of Accounts have also undertaken audits and investigations into the matter, and ISP say they “anticipate providing the special prosecutor with additional information for potential additional charges” after those reports are completed.
Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.