ST. LOUIS – A Missouri state employee accused of using her position to send around $140,000 in unearned unemployment benefits to friends, relatives and others faces felony charges.

Federal prosecutors have charged Vicky Hefner, 63, of Jefferson County, with three charges of theft of public money. She pleaded not guilty to all three charges last week.

Investigators say Hefner began work with Missouri’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations in 2009 as a benefit program specialist for the Division of Employment Security. She worked out of her home and an office in St. Louis helping people file their claims over the phone and adjudicating issues people were having with unemployment claims.

According to a federal indictment, from July to December 2020, Hefner logged into the accounts of multiple friends, relatives or associates and changed their status. She reportedly used her credentials in ways that either made them eligible for unemployment benefits or increased their benefits.

Hefner also triggered unemployment payments to people who were still working, while her friends and relatives also paid her kickbacks, per the indictment.

Hefner was indicted in federal court on September 28. If convicted, she would be ordered to repay the money and could face up to 10 years in prison or a $250,000 fine for each charge.