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Noel family on the hook to pay back more than $4 million in nonprofit spending

New Chapel EMS ambulances.
Aprile Rickert
A state audit shows former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel and his family misspent or benefitted from more than $4 million funds from the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association, also known as New Chapel EMS.

Indiana state auditors show former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel and his family are responsible for paying back more than $4 million in nonprofit funds.

The Indiana State Board of Accounts released a report this week which details findings that former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel and his family spent or benefitted from more than $4 million that wasn’t theirs over a five-year period.

The money belonged to a nonprofit organization, the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association, also known as New Chapel EMS. Noel previously ran that organization.

The report reviewed the nonprofit’s financial activity between 2019 and 2023. It found Noel and two family members spent more than $2.9 million on personal items, charged to New Chapel credit cards. Auditors say in the report Noel used the nonprofit funds to purchase a plane, buy clothing, furniture, cigars and firearms, pay college tuition, donate to Republican campaigns and pay child support to a former Clark County Council member he has a child with.

The criminal investigation

Noel has been under investigation by state police since last June. He’s now facing 25 felonies including theft, ghost employment and tax evasion related to spending and practices at the nonprofit and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. His wife and one of his daughters are also charged.

He was first arrested in November but released on bond the following day. Noel was taken back into custody in early April after a judge found he was in violation of the terms of his bond.

A separate report released by the state board of accounts in February showed Noel and an associate responsible for more than $900,000 in Clark County Sheriff's Office and state funds.

New report findings 

Investigators looking into New Chapel bank statements found more than $4.4 million in payments to American Express accounts associated with the nonprofit over the review period. Current New Chapel leadership said they did not have access to the accounts that Noel had opened. An attorney for New Chapel filed a lawsuit in March to gain control of American Express and Synchrony Bank accounts.

The state audit breaks down spending on the American Express account by cardholder. Noel is accused of charging more than $2.1 million, which auditors say there is no record of being for the nonprofit. He is also accused of another $39,000 on a Chase account. In total, auditors say he’s responsible for around $3.5 million in misspent or lost funds to the organization.

Noel’s alleged American Express purchases include more than $360,000 on retail spending; more than $323,000 in travel expenses; more than $149,000 on “aircraft and automotive” and nearly $72,000 in alcohol and tobacco.

The purchases include nearly $54,000 at a local cigar lounge, and auditors talked with a New Chapel board member who said Noel would “frequently invite others to the cigar lounge and insist on paying for the guests.”

The report also shows he used New Chapel funds to donate more than $20,000 through WinRed, an online political fundraising platform to support conservative candidates.

The findings also list Noel’s wife, Misty, as having spent more than $663,000 on an American Express card over the five years on personal items including clothing, jewelry, beauty and retail. She’s facing 10 felonies for theft and tax evasion in the state police investigation.

Their daughter, Kasey Noel, is also criminally charged and listed in the state audit as having spent more than $107,000 on personal items and services on an American Express card and close to $2,000 on a Chase card. Kasey was an employee of New Chapel during the reporting period, but board members told the state board of accounts neither Misty nor Kasey were approved to have access to the American Express account.

The report also shows, as have previous state police records have, that there wasn’t a functioning board in place during the audit review period and that Noel acted without oversight.

“There is no evidence that the board members performed any function, including approving contracts, purchases, or debt obligations, or reviewed any financial reports, tax returns or bank activity of New Chapel EMS,” the report reads.

It also states that the “New Chapel EMS had no board oversight or suitable restrictions for Jamey Noel's spending on the account for the entirety of the examination period.”

There were two other cardholders on the American Express account — CEO Matt Owen and Kevin Wilkerson, who also still works for New Chapel. The report shows Owen’s total charges were $111.90 and “appeared to be for nonprofit purposes.”

Of Wilkerson’s total – more than $279,000 – investigators say nearly $41,000 was personal spending. While auditors request he and Noel “jointly and severally” repay this, he’s not charged with any crimes and according to New Chapel, isn’t under criminal investigation.

The report also shows Noel paid more than $180,000 in college tuition and expenses for his two other daughters.

The state board of accounts request Noel, his wife and three daughters and Wilkerson “jointly and severally” repay the funds they’re alleged to have used or benefitted from.

Noel is also accused of trading in or selling New Chapel vehicles for personal gain and making “inappropriate” vehicle purchases and trades.

In addition, the audit found that between 2019 and 2023, New Chapel received more than $3.8 million in public funds through EMS contracts with Clark and Floyd counties. However, investigators say previous bylaws only show the organization as providing fire services, and they didn’t receive a copy of bylaws including EMS services until August 2023.

New Chapel response 

A response to the audit findings is included in the report, signed by New Chapel CEO and President Matt Owen, Vice President Paul Holcomb and attorney Heather Peters. They say that the organization's purpose changed to include EMS service in 2003, and that the articles of incorporation should have been amended to reflect that. Leaders said that change is being made now.

In the response, New Chapel leaders say they've also made other changes in the wake of the investigation, including putting in place a functioning board of directors and internal controls to document and review financial activity and corporate documents.

The nonprofit has also conducted its own internal investigation and found that no other employees, directors or staff were aware of the alleged misuse of funds, and that “most employees, and others through the community, believed that the company was…privately owned by the Noel family,” it reads. That includes Wilkerson, who, according to New Chapel’s response, believed the items he received from Noel were gifts.

Nonprofit leadership said in the audit response that, according to state police, no board members, their attorneys or the organization itself are under criminal investigation.

The report has been turned over to other state and federal agencies and officials including Special Prosecutor Ric Hertel, the Indiana Attorney General's Office, Indiana Department of Revenue and the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

In addition to the more than $4 million the state is asking the Noels and Wilkerson to repay, they’re asking for nearly $169,000 from Jamey Noel, to reimburse the cost of the special state board of accounts investigation.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc., the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation, and the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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