Former Centerton head of Public Works arrested for theft

Northwest Arkansas News

CENTERTON, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The former head of Centerton Public Works Department who was found to be drunk on duty and resigned October 29, 2021, was arrested Thursday for theft of property and fraudulent use of a credit or debit card.

According to a police report, Ricky Dale Hudson, 66, of Bella Vista was being investigated by Centerton Police Department after it was reported he might be in possession of items ordered through the city’s Amazon Business account that he was not authorized to purchase.

Centerton city procedures allow department heads and certain other employees to make purchases up to $1,000 without approval from the Mayor. According to police, Husdon made several purchases that were not under the $1,000 limit but instead noted on the invoices half the bill would be charged to the Centerton Parks Department, and the other half would be charged to the Centerton Street Department.

On November 16, 2021, Centerton officers went to Hudson’s new home in Bella Vista to talk to him about the purchases and officers found Hudson moving in. Officers observed a black pickup truck matching the description of Hudson’s pickup. Officers also saw a folded truck bed cover similar to the brand used to accommodate a BakFlip tool-box that was purchased on the city’s Amazon account by Hudson.

The following day, police obtained a search warrant for Hudson’s home in Bella Vista. When officers arrived, Hudson was not home. Police called Hudson and he told them he was at his storage unit in Hiwasse. Officers then headed there.

When at the storage unit, Hudson asked what the officers were looking for. Detective Mike Lira with the Centerton Police Department told Hudson the department was notified that purchases were made by him for personal items using the city’s Amazon account.

Hudson then asked the detective what the items in question were and Detective Lira listed off a few. Lira then asked Hudson, if he knew what he was talking about. Hudson replied with “yeah,” according to the police report.

The arrest warrant states Hudson purchased, woodworking equipment, woodworking dust collectors, drill press, calligraphy stencil kit, an indoor/outdoor 96″ ceiling fan, a super heavy duty dolly roller, folding truck bed cover utility box, and several items for a Ford F-150 and an F-250 pickup truck which Hudson owns or has owned.

Police continued talking to Hudson, asking about the items purchased from the Amazon account. Hudson explained that items were in multiple locations in Benton County.

Hudson was surprised at the number of items in the preliminary list. He confirmed to the police it was his signature on the invoices. When officers asked about the 96″ fan, Hudson said it was at his house in the basement unopened. Hudson agreed to go to his home in Bella Vista to start gathering items and said, “Let’s go to the house… I’ll give you all that s***,” according to the report.

When officers were headed to Hudson’s home, they instead stopped at Hudson’s daughter’s home in Centerton. Hudson gave officers two long surveying items out of his personal truck to officers telling them they belonged to the city. They then headed to Hudson’s home.

When officers arrived they presented a search warrant to Hudson. Officers found joist tape and screws purchased with city money and used to build a large deck at his home.

When officers asked Hudson where all the items were, he told officers he was unaware and said officers would need the other three moving vans, in addition, to the one on the scene.

Over the next 10 days, officers made several trips out to the residence and more items were obtained from Hudson. Through several more conversations, it was found there were unauthorized purchases made by Hudson for himself with a city Visa card through Amazon, AutoZone, O’Reilly’s, and Lowe’s credit cards.

On December 8, 2021, the Centerton Chief of Police located a portable light in the purchase records. The light was identified as the light in the living room of Hudson’s home from search warrant photographs taken at his home.

From the new discovery of the light, a second search warrant was obtained. Hudson was contacted by police and later showed up at the police department. When Hudson was asked about not coming forward with the magnitude of these purchases, he explained he was embarrassed. During the interview with police, he said he still has a chainsaw belonging to the city at his daughter’s home and volunteered to get it.

In total, 726 items were recovered from Hudson’s home and several city staff members are working to match the inventory list with several hundred receipts and invoices.

According to the police report, Hudson spent $30,155.35 on the city’s Amazon Business Account, $27,721.38 on the city’s Visa and Lowe’s credit cards, and $4,313.73 on the city’s AutoZone account. Totaling $62,190.46 in unauthorized purchases.

Hudson was booked into the Benton County Jail Thursday and held on a $1,500 bond. He has since posted bond and has been released.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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