By Mary Pierce
Keith County News editor
In addition to the three felony theft by unlawful taking charges Blake Edwards of Ogallala currently faces, the former Keith County attorney also has been charged with two counts of income tax evasion and three counts of filing false income tax returns.
“Earlier this week, our office filed a second amended information adding five new charges,” Nebraska Attorney General’s Office Director of Communications Shannon Kingery said.
The new charges were filed in Keith County District Court Sept. 19.
Edwards will be arraigned on the new charges at 3 p.m. Oct. 5.
Edwards was set for arraignment Sept. 22 on the three theft by unlawful taking charges. Kingery said that hearing was continued to the Oct. 5 date when he will be arraigned on all charges.
The theft by unlawful charges–one which alleges Edwards took from $500 to $1,500, and two charges allege he took more than $1,500–stem from Edwards allegedly mishandling the county’s diversion program funds during the time he was in sole control of the fund while serving as Keith County attorney.
Two of the five new charges allege Edwards attempted to evade income tax during 2007 and 2008.
The other three new charges allege Edwards filed false income tax returns in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
On June 13, a search warrant was issued for Edwards’ Ogallala home. A Nebraska State Patrol investigator, several troopers and a representative from the Nebraska Department of Revenue searched the property for any records and documents relating to income tax records, business tax records and supporting documents of Edwards and his wife Shirley, Edwards’ law office, the Keith County Diversion Program and the Edwards’ involvement with the Ogallala Trap Team for the time period from the tax year 2007 through the present.
The new charges all are Class 4 felonies, which carry a maximum five years imprisonment, or a $10,000 fine or both.
Two of the theft by unlawful taking charges (more than $1,500) are considered Class 3 felonies, punishable by a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, or a $25,000 fine, or both.
The other theft by unlawful taking ($500 to $1,500) charge is a Class 4 felony.
Edwards, now Dundy County attorney, served as Keith County attorney from January 2007 through December 2010.