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Undersheriff Neff’s accuser headed to prison for two felonies

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An ex-convict from Adams Center whose allegations of sexual harassment brought against Jefferson County Undersheriff Andrew R. Neff prompted his suspension faces up to three years in state prison after admitting Friday in County Court that she tried to forge a receipt to illegally obtain a refund and also possessed a stolen credit card.

Michele R. Bowens, 42, of 17987 County Route 76, pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted forgery and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, both felonies, as a result of two incidents.

She admitted that on April 17, with another woman, she tried to falsely file complaints at a McDonald’s restaurant to obtain refunds to which she was not entitled. A grand jury indictment handed up Oct. 3 alleged that twice on April 17 she completed a refund at an unidentified McDonald’s by signing fictitious names to receipts to obtain refunds of $28.06 and $28.27. It further was alleged that she did the same thing the following day to obtain $31.93 unlawfully.

Ms. Bowens also admitted Friday that on Nov. 7 she possessed a credit card that had been stolen from John S. Dunk, Route 3, Henderson. She is expected to be sentenced on both charges March 11 to concurrent 1- to three-year terms in prison. Ms. Bowens is already a convicted felon, having been sentenced in December 2007 in County Court to 1 to three years in prison for fourth-degree grand larceny for her participation in a shoplifting ring that targeted Walmart. She was released from prison in September 2008.

She maintains that after her release from prison, she worked as an informant for the Metro-Jeff Drug Task Force, of which Mr. Neff was a member. She claims that she became involved in a relationship with Mr. Neff, despite Sheriff’s Department policy forbidding its members to consort with known criminals.

The relationship ended, but Ms. Bowens claims that after the latest indictment against her became public in October, Mr. Neff contacted her and offered to intervene on her behalf with the district attorney’s office in exchange for sexual favors. She also alleges that Mr. Neff sent her unwanted photos of a man’s penis using his county-issued phone. Ms. Bowens has filed a notice of claim, a necessary precursor to any lawsuit against a municipality, with the county, but no suit has been filed.

State police are investigating Mr. Neff’s alleged conduct as he remains suspended with pay since Oct. 25. Sheriff John P. Burns said this month that Mr. Neff is weighing retirement, although that would not affect the criminal investigation.

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