Former county employee charged with alleged altering of vet’s report

By: 
Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, July 18, 2019
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A former county employee appeared in district court last Thursday and denied charges of altering a veterinarian’s report regarding a horse and using county email to conduct personal business.

Heidi Lyn Stevens, 46, denied felony charges of forgery and deceptive practices and one misdemeanor count of official misconduct.

Specifically, the forgery charge alleges that Stevens tried to sell a horse with an altered veterinarian’s PPE (Prepurchase Examination Report) to an interested buyer “in an attempt to conceal the possible undesirable health issues of the mare, and to receive funds of $3,200 for a horse worth much less or nothing,” according to the charging court documents.

The deceptive practices charge alleges that Stevens knowingly or purposely “presented a falsified veterinarian’s PPE (Pre-purchase Examination Report) to an interested buyer in an attempt to justify the $3,200 sales price on a horse worth much less or nothing,” according to charging court documents.

The official misconduct charge alleges that while a county employee and “in the capacity of a public servant” Stevens used county equipment and a county email address “to perform activities that were not official county business, but were in fact, criminal in nature while being paid as a county employee,” according to the charging court document.

Stevens pleaded not guilty to all three criminal charges and is allowed to remain free pending the resolution of the case as long as she follows Judge Matt Wald’s orders.

Stevens worked as the administrative assistance for the Stillwater County Commission from Jan. 22, 2019, to June 21, 2019, said County Finance and Human Resource Director Joe Morse.

“She (Stevens) and the county mutually agreed that the position was not working out under terms of the probationary period,” Morse told the News this week.

THE CASE

On June 12, a woman called the Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office and reported that in the process of attempting to purchase a horse that was being advertised on Facebook by Stevens, she discovered the animal had underlying health issues discovered through an examination at a local veterinary clinic, according to court documents.

In May, the would-be-purchaser went to Steven’s property in Absarokee to look at the horse and noticed it had labored breathing and “other indicators of respiratory impairment,” according to court documents. Based on that observation, the woman asked Stevens to have the horse inspected by a veterinarian.

A pre-purchase exam (PPE) was conducted by a local veterinarian and the suspicions of respiratory issues with the horse were confirmed, prompting the woman to end further action toward buying the animal, according to court documents.

A few days later, Stevens asked the woman to reconsider because “other vets had previously evaluated the animal and had not drawn the same conclusions” as the other veterinarian.

On June 11, the local veterinarian office that conducted the PPE on the horse called the woman to say Stevens and another interested buyer had requested a copy of the evaluation. (The woman was required to give her permission for the release of the evaluation because she had paid for it). The woman gave her permission, but Stevens ended up telling her that she had found the previously shared report and no longer needed a copy of the document, which the woman found strange, according to court documents.

On June 12, the local veterinarian who conducted the exam called the woman and said “she was in receipt of an altered PPE,” according to court documents.

That same morning, the woman received a Facebook message from Stevens, asking her to call her because “I have something I need to explain before it gets out of hand. I did a dumb thing and I would like the change [sic] to explain. Please. I don’t want you to think I am or (Stevens’s boyfriend) for sure is a bad person.”

The phone number Stevens asked the woman to call her at was the office line of the Stillwater Board of County Commissioners, according to court documents.

The woman responded to Stevens’s message, outlining the accusations of forgery, falsifying documents and a personal attack. The woman then blocked Stevens on Facebook.

In response, Stevens sent the woman a text message that among other things, stated the following:

“…The horse is not sick. We had two other vets check on her. 2 out of three said she was not sick. They both diagnosed the same thing the vet in Billings had said a year ago. I did wrong. I admit it. I was wrong. I made a seriously dumb mistake choice action(sic). A very poor choice as an adult. I apologize for my bad behavior. I don’t expect you to accept. I understand. I won’t sell a sick horse. It is to the best of my knowledge and 3 vets that he is not sick. We know our horse. That said it DOES NOT excuse what I did. I was and am confident that she is not sick and that she is an amazing. Again it will never happen again. But I understand your position and I am wrong. I apologize and admit wrong doing and it was dumb. I can’t say sorry enough. I won’t contact you. I understand your thoughts and opinion of me. I’m not a band (sic) person or liar. I just did something really dumb in a desperate moment. Thank you responding. It’s appreciated. I’m sorry for dragging you into it. Again.”

Deputies interviewed the second interested buyer of the horse, who told them that because she was an inexperienced horse owner, had asked Stevens about concerns related to a hay allergy.

Stevens referred the second buyer to a different local veterinarian, who said the only records she had for the horse in question were related to vaccinations. By the time the interested buyer called vet, she had received the altered PPE from Stevens, showing an email address of the Stillwater County Commission, according to court documents.

The second buyer obtained the original PPE and discovered “obvious irregularities” between the two documents and told Stevens that in light of the “dishonesty in not disclosing the horse’s health conditions,” she was no longer interested in purchasing the animal, according to court documents.

The first vet met with deputies and confirmed that she had written and signed the original PPE. The vet also confirmed that the signature on the altered PPE was not hers and also told deputies that she had called Stevens and “admonished her after discovering the falsification,” according to court documents.

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