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Comptroller: Fmr State Museum Administrative Assistant Took $61K

Press release from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; August 20, 2014:

A new investigative report from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury reveals that a former administrative services assistant with the Tennessee State Museum took $61,892.04 in taxpayer money. The Comptroller’s Office worked with the chief investigator from the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General to complete its investigation.

In February 2014 investigators began to identify a cash shortage created by the former administrative services assistant. Investigators discovered the employee used a scheme to falsify 26 invoices and submit them for payment to her personal account. The employee used her role as a processor of purchase orders and requisitions to create phony invoices for historical artifacts. The employee admitted to creating the false invoices and submitting them for payment with photocopies of her supervisor’s signature. These payments totaled $49,476.97.

Investigators also discovered the employee used a rental car for 15 months, and billed $12,415.97 to the Tennessee State Museum. The employee admitted she improperly charged the rental fees to the museum after her personal car broke down. Her employment has been terminated.

Investigators determined the administrative services assistant was a convicted felon on parole for a theft of property over $60,000. Museum officials were not aware of her conviction at the time she was hired in April 2011. The former employee was originally hired by Adecco USA in November 2008 to provide temporary and contract employment to other state agencies. The employee disclosed three prior convictions on her Adecco USA application. The Museum Commission is taking steps to require background checks on all future employees.

Investigators recommend the Tennessee State Museum reconcile purchases with inventory records on a monthly basis. Errors can remain undiscovered without proper review.

“The Tennessee State Museum helps preserve, protect and share our state’s fascinating history,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “We must also protect taxpayer dollars to ensure the continued success of this institution.”

To view the investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/.

Comptroller Audit Uncovers Theft of Morristown Animal Shelter Funds by Employee

Press release from the Office of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson; May 22, 2013:

An employee of the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society altered receipts to conceal the theft of $51,130 from the organization’s adoption fees and other funds, an audit by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigation has revealed.

Receipts in the humane society’s computer system were backdated – up to 11 years before the installation of the computer system – so they would not be included in daily collection reports. That meant money from adoption fees and other sources didn’t appear in the organization’s records. Investigators concluded that money was stolen by the employee, who was later fired.

Investigative auditors reviewed records from July 1, 2009 through October 31, 2011 after Hamblen County officials discovered the altered receipts from collections were not deposited into the humane society’s bank accounts. The stolen funds should have been used to operate the animal shelter, enforce animal control ordinances and conduct animal cruelty investigations.

The employee involved had been responsible for gathering collections, matching collections with receipts and delivering those collections to the bookkeeper for deposit. During questioning by investigators, the employee admitted to backdating one receipt to “borrow” $120. The employee refused to speak with investigators after being fired.

Investigators also found weaknesses in the humane society’s accounting and record-keeping procedures, which made the theft easier to conceal.

“It is very important that there is an appropriate amount of oversight when public funds are being accepted, recorded and spent or deposited,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Putting too many responsibilities in the hands of one individual without that kind of oversight can create situations that are ripe for fraud or abuse. It is very unfortunate in this case that money that could have been used to help stray and abused animals in Hamblen County isn’t available for that purpose because of this.”

The Comptroller’s Division of Investigation has forwarded copies of its report and supporting information to the Office of the District Attorney, Third Judicial District.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

Parole Officer Arrested for Theft of Court Ordered Fees, Fines Paid by Offenders

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Correction; January 17, 2013:

SEVIERVILLE – An extensive investigation by the Department of Correction’s Office of Investigations and Compliance has led to the arrest of a probation/parole officer on charges of theft. The investigation revealed Officer Joshua Keith DeBord misused funds paid by offenders under his supervision. The offenders thought they were paying court ordered fines and fees but DeBord kept the money for his personal use.

“These allegations are a serious violation of the public trust and the oath our officers take to uphold the law,” Commissioner Derrick Schofield said. “The vast majority of our officers take their sworn duty seriously, those who do not will be held accountable for their actions to include possible prosecution.”

DeBord has been charged with theft over $500. He was booked into the Sevier County Jail. He is on administrative leave pending termination.

THP, Marion Co. Sheriff’s Dept. Charge 6 in 2-year-long $1.8 M Cargo Theft Scheme

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Safety; October 8, 2012: 

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Highway Patrol Criminal Investigations Division (THP-CID), along with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, charged 6 individuals on Monday for an elaborate scheme of allegedly stealing tractor trailer loads of cargo worth $1.8 million over the last 2 years.

Investigators say that Jay Sanders, Monteagle, Tenn., and Gary Alto, Whitwell, Tenn., were employed by SCS Trucking in Whitwell. They were responsible for hauling loads of scrap metal from a company in Ashland City, Tenn. to South Pittsburg, Tenn. The two truck drivers allegedly devised a scheme in which they would pay off security guards at one plant and workers at another, and then divert the loads to Dodson Scrap Metal Yard in Whitwell. The owners of Dodson Scrap Metal Yard, Randall and Melissa Brown, allegedly would not document receiving the metal and would haul it on their own tractor trailer to a scrap metal dealer in Alabama for cash. The scheme has allegedly been ongoing since at least 2010.

Investigators charged Jay Sanders, Gary Alto, Randall Brown, Melissa Brown, James King, and Craig Meeks each with theft of property over $250,000. Theft over $250,000 is a class A felony which carries a standard sentence of 15 – 25 years in prison.

“Cargo theft is a nationwide issue with a significant impact on the United States economy. It is estimated that cargo crime accounts for a direct merchandise loss of $15 to $30 billion per year. Virtually all goods manufactured domestically and internationally are transported by truck and train within the continental U.S. Studies indicate that 80 percent of all cargo thefts are ‘inside jobs,’” stated Sergeant Matthew Minter with the THP-CID.

Jail booking photos of the suspects may be obtained from Marion County Sheriff’s Department.

TBI Arrests Attorney’s Secretary for Theft of $5K from Clients

Press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; September 25, 2012:  

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today arrested a Columbia, Tenn. woman on a theft charge after she was indicted by the Maury County grand jury last week for one count of theft over $1,000.

Kelley Renee Dodd, 34, of Hayes Drive in Columbia was charged with the class D felony after TBI investigated funds missing from Attorney James Flexer’s office in Columbia at the request of the 22nd Judicial District Attorney General’s office in June 2012. Between October 2011 and May 2012, while Dodd was employed as a secretary in the law office, Dodd stole approximately $5,000 worth of money orders and cash from clients of the law office. She was terminated when the funds were discovered missing in May of 2012. The law office indemnified the client’s money and is the sole victim of the theft.

Dodd was booked into the Maury County Jail and released on a $1,000 bond.

Comptroller Audit Finds Drugs, Money Missing from 2 Wilson Co. Task Forces

Press release from Comptroller of the Treasury Justin Wilson; July 11, 2012: 

A lack of proper safeguards led to missing money and drugs seized by two anti-crime task forces run by law enforcement officers in Wilson County, an investigation involving the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit has revealed.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked the Comptroller’s office to assist in an investigation related to cash, vehicles and other assets seized by the Joint Violent Crimes Task Force (JVCTF) and the Safe Streets Task Force. The Wilson County Sheriff’s Department and the Lebanon Police Department had an agreement in place for their participation in the JVCTF that referenced the FBI’s participation, but the FBI did not sign the agreement. The Wilson County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI operated the Safe Streets task force.

The investigation found that some case files were incomplete or missing, including one involving bags of cocaine that were seized but could not be found.

The investigation also found that more than $25,000 in seized cash could not be accounted for – and almost $9,000 in seized cash was improperly deposited into the police department’s bank account instead of a joint account shared with the sheriff department.

Investigators also determined that vehicles seized by the JVCTF and awarded to Wilson County were not accounted for and disposed of properly.

The Wilson County deputy assigned to head Wilson County’s participation in the JVCTF and Safe Streets Task Force pled guilty to obstruction of official proceeding and was sentenced on April 27 to 18 years in prison.

“This is another case in which better use of accounting checks and balances – what auditors refer to as ‘internal controls’ – could have prevented problems,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Good accounting and recordkeeping procedures are very important, particularly in cases like this in which money and seized assets are involved. I commend our auditors, as well as the investigators from the TBI and FBI, for their diligent work on this case.”

The audit, which was released today, can be viewed online at: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/SpecialReports.asp

Comptroller: State Worker Stole $53K from Morgan Co.

Press release from the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury; June 4, 2012:

An administrative secretary used a variety of schemes to steal at least $53,412.78 from the Morgan County Soil Conservation District, an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Local Government Audit has revealed.

The administrative secretary, Sharlene Justice, forged signatures of the district board’s chairman on checks and timesheets dating back at least to 2008. The administrative secretary wrote checks to herself and to family members.

A portion of the unreceipted cash collected by the administrative secretary was eventually deposited and a forged check written by Ms. Justice was returned by the bank due to insufficient funds. This reduced the cash shortage to $44,727.08.

The report noted that the soil district’s board of directors failed to provide adequate oversight over the district’s operations and that safeguards that might have detected the thefts sooner were lacking.

For example, auditors noted that Justice was responsible for all aspects of financial transactions, which meant no one on the district staff double checked her work. Also, the district issued only generic receipts, which made it difficult to determine if office funds were being properly receipted and deposited. The lack of oversight was further illustrated when the chairman of the board advised that his signature had been forged on checks and timesheets since at least 2008.

“It is very important that government entities practice good internal controls in accounting and bookkeeping,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “Internal controls are basically a set of checks and balances that help make sure that public dollars aren’t subject to fraud, waste or abuse. As this case clearly illustrates, there can be consequences for governments that don’t have good internal controls.”

The findings of the report, which was released today, were forwarded to the local district attorney’s office.

On May 21, the Morgan County Grand Jury indicted Justice on one count of theft over $10,000. On May 23, she was arrested by officers from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/la/SpecialReports.asp.

TBI Arrests Former Probation Officer

Press release from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; May 22, 2012:

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today arrested a former probation officer for misconduct after he was indicted by the Montgomery County Grand Jury earlier this month.

Derrel Denton, 40, of Memphis, Tenn. was indicted and charged with one count of official misconduct. Between October 2010 until July 2011, Denton stole restitution payments totaling more than $5,000 from approximately 17 juveniles under his supervision while employed as a Montgomery County Juvenile Court Probation Officer. The 19th Judicial District Attorney General’s Office requested TBI to investigate the allegations against Denton in September of 2011. Denton also had outstanding warrants against him including driving on a revoked license, seat belt violation, and driving without a registration or insurance. Although unrelated to the misconduct case, those charges were served on him today as well.

Denton was booked into the Montgomery County Jail today on a $6,000 bond. The date of his initial court appearance has not yet been determined.

TBI Arrests Long-time City of Collinwood Employee for Theft

Press Release from Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; Jan. 17, 2012:

Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has arrested a long-time City of Collinwood employee after she was indicted by the Wayne County Grand Jury last week.

Sherry Gallien, 50, of Collinwood, Tenn. was indicted on one count of theft over $60,000 and arrested on Thursday, January 12, 2012. TBI initiated the investigation on April 25, 2011 after being requested by the District Attorney General. The funds that went missing, between July 2008 and September 2010, totaled approximately $83,000 and were discovered as a result of an audit by the State of Tennessee Comptroller’s office. Gallien has worked for the City of Collinwood for 33 years and remains in her current position as clerk.

Gallien was booked into the Wayne County Jail on a $20,000.

Comptroller Investigation Leads To Ashland City Accounting Clerk Arrest

Press Release from Tennessee State Comptroller, April 11, 2010:

Former Ashland City accounting clerk Lisa Cantrell has been booked on a theft charge following an investigation by the Comptroller’s Division of Municipal Audit.

In a letter released Monday, Dennis Dycus, director of the Division of Municipal Audit, informed Ashland City’s Mayor and Board of Aldermen that between July 1, 2009 and September 30, 2009, Cantrell failed to deposit at least $5,785 in checks and cash collections into the city’s account.

The money should have been deposited into the city’s general and water funds, but Ms. Cantrell falsified city business records and stole the money instead.

The Cheatham County Grand Jury indicted Cantrell last week on a felony theft charge.

“I am glad to see that Ms. Cantrell will be brought to justice in this matter and I commend District Attorney General Dan M. Alsobrooks and his staff for their willingness to take up the prosecution,” Dycus said. “A good way to deter public officials and employees from committing thefts and other crimes while in office is to punish them appropriately and show that no public employee is above the law.”

“Protecting taxpayer funds from waste, fraud and abuse is one of the highest priorities of this office,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. “While it is disappointing each time one of these cases comes to light, I am very pleased to have auditors on my staff who are skilled at uncovering this type of activity.”

The letter to city officials also notes that during an interview with state auditors, Cantrell admitted that she had taken money from the city for her own personal use and described what is commonly referred to as a “check-for-cash swap scheme” as her means of accomplishing her crime.

The letter further details that Cantrell also acknowledged using a refund check from Northern Tool to the city of over $2,000 to swap for city cash that she had stolen.

The Comptroller’s report can be found at http://www.comptroller1.state.tn.us/RA_MA/