A Twin Cities woman stole more than $650,000 from Vermillion Township in Dakota County while she was its elected clerk, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Maryann H. Stoffel, 70, of Hastings, was charged in U.S. District Court in St. Paul with felony wire fraud in connection with a scheme that spanned nearly eight years until October.

Messages were left with the former clerk's attorney Monday seeking a response to the allegations.

The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to say how the suspected thefts were detected. The Minnesota State Auditor's Office, which oversees nearly $40 billion spent annually by local governments, does not include townships among its responsibilities.

Auditor's Office spokesman Donald McFarland said Vermillion Township is not required to arrange an audit by a certified public accountant firm because of its small population (about 1,240) and its amount of annual revenue, among other factors.

According to the criminal complaint and other federal court records:

Stoffel had signature authority over the township's bank account, which required two people signing before payment issuance.

Starting as far back as December 2012, the same year that Stoffel and her husband filed for personal bankruptcy protection, she sometimes forged the signatures of the township's treasurer and the board chair.

At other times, Stoffel would collect the treasurer's and chair's signatures on blank checks under the guise that she would submit them to pay for township bills.

Stoffel then put the funds in her personal bank account and then left off the payments to herself from the township's annual report.

The complaint did not reveal what Stoffel did with the money.

The Stoffels' bankruptcy filing listed $425,000 in debts as of June 2012, with bills owed on credit cards, back taxes, their home mortgage and other obligations.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482