An Ash Grove, Mo., woman pleaded guilty in federal court today to money laundering in relation to a scheme to defraud the city of Nixa of $482,365.

Paula K. Covington, 53, waived her right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr this afternoon to a superseding information that charges her with money laundering. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the government will dismiss the charges against her contained in a federal indictment.

Covington admitted that she used the proceeds of a scheme to defraud the city of Nixa in order to purchase American Kennel Club-registered Labrador retrievers and a four-hole, homemade dog trailer. When her husband was arrested on state charges on Feb. 24, 2009, she contacted the owner of Lone Oak Retrievers and directed him to immediately sell three of the dogs.

On March 3, 2009, the owner of Lone Oak Retrievers sold three of the dogs. Covington directed him to remit the $10,881 in proceeds to another person’s account at Liberty Bank. On March 6, 2009, $10,640 was withdrawn from the Liberty Bank account and used to purchase two cashier’s checks totaling $10,636. Both of the cashier’s checks were made payable to Advanced Bail Bonds of Ozark, Mo., for the purpose of posting bond for Covington’s husband, Larry.

Larry Covington

By pleading guilty today, Covington admitted that the money from the sale of the dogs represented the proceeds of mail fraud. She also admitted that the financial transactions involved – including the wire transfer of funds into Liberty Bank and the withdrawal of the funds in order to purchase the cashier’s checks to pay the bonding company – was designed to disguise the fact that the money from the fraud scheme against the city of Nixa was used to post bond.
Larry W. Covington, 49, was charged in a 51-count federal indictment returned under seal by a federal grand jury on May 14, 2009. The indictment is for a series of bogus schemes to defraud Larry Covington's former employer, The City of Nixa, out of more than $756,000.
Covington trial is scheduled for July, but a source says a plea agreement is in the works for him too.

David Griggs

On Aug. 27, 2009, co-defendant David W. Griggs, 45, of Willard, Mo., pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in a series of mail fraud and money laundering schemes totaling more than $756,000. Griggs pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, theft from an organization receiving federal funds, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Griggs was employed by the city of Nixa as a utility worker in the city’s street department from Nov. 6, 2003, to Feb. 8, 2006. He was promoted to be the lead utility worker on Aug. 4, 2004.

Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the government and Covington agree to a sentence of one year and one day.