Archive for the ‘Payroll Fraud’ Category

DeSoto Parish LACE Update

02/06/2018

DeSoto deputies under investigation resign, retire from sheriff’s office

By Vickie Welborn – KTBS TV3

Three DeSoto Parish sheriff’s deputies who were the subject of an internal investigation into possible payroll padding in an off-duty traffic enforcement detail have left the sheriff’s department.

Stephanie White filed for retirement, and Annette Carter and Shawn Parker resigned.

Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle declined to release the names upon advice of his attorney. KTBS confirmed their identities independently.

Arbuckle said his investigation was into violations of department policies. He said any criminal charges may be up to the state attorney general’s office.

He referred the case to State Police for a criminal investigation. Troopers have not said whether they have opened an investigation.

The three deputies were identified by state auditors, who have been in DeSoto Parish for weeks conducting an investigative audit of the LACE (Local Agency Compensation Enforcement) program there. That audit is focused on how the sheriff’s office, district attorney’s office, Police Jury and criminal court fund administer the program.

A review of time cards and LACE tickets by the auditors led to Arbuckle placing the deputies on paid administrative leave three weeks ago.

A fourth officer, who left the sheriff’s department earlier, is also under review by auditors.

Arbuckle pulled his deputies off of working LACE last year — prior to the start of the audit.

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Payroll Fraud at Ruston Housing Authority

02/05/2018

A just-released audit of the Ruston Housing Authority has uncovered an incidence of payroll fraud beginning in 2013.

From page 28 of the audit by Rector, Reader & Lofton, P.C.:

We were informed that one of the agency’s former employees had committed fraudulent and abusive activity beginning with April of 2013 and up through the beginning of the current audit period. The method through which misappropriation was taking place was in the modifying of payroll withholdings and falsifying overtime hours. In her role as payroll administrator, she was issuing payroll checks to herself for unauthorized overtime and using the Board Chairman and Executive Director’s signature stamp. Total overtime paid was 164 hours for a total of $5,166.02. The modifications to the employee’s payroll withholdings included a loan repayment on her retirement plan that she instead had the authority paying on her behalf. The total amount applied towards her loan by the authority was $9,425.89, She also had been enrolled in AFLAC dental insurance for the duration of her employment but had not been withholding the monthly premium in the amount of $112.20. This resulted in the authority paying a total of $3,927 of premiums on her behalf. The employee has subsequently paid $14,000 in restitution of the total of $18,518.91in questioned fraudulent costs.

It was not revealed in the audit whether the findings had been turned over to the Third Judicial (Lincoln, Union Parishes) District Attorney for prosecution.

Also revealed in the document (pg 38) is the generous pay granted the authority’s executive director:

Salary – $87,252
Benefits (insurance) – $14,937
Benefits (retirement) – $7,416
Car allowance – $4,800
Per diem – $479
Registration fees – $600
Conference travel – $944

Total – $116,428

See here the complete document.

FBI on Edmonson’s Case

01/24/2018

Sources: Pilots questioned, logs checked in FBI probe of Mike Edmonson’s helicopter travel at State Police

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

The FBI’s investigation of Mike Edmonson has focused in part on his extensive travel as the head of the Louisiana State Police, with agents interviewing current and former pilots about Edmonson’s prolific use of state helicopters, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the inquiry.

The bureau has been following up on allegations outlined in a legislative audit that accused Edmonson of taking an array of handouts and tapping state resources for his family’s benefit. Agents have questioned a growing list of state troopers — and even inmates who once cooked for Edmonson and his family — and reviewed policies and procedures related to State Police travel, according to two other sources with knowledge of the probe.

The federal inquiry has tracked the legislative audit in many respects, with some officials saying they fielded similar questions from both auditors and agents. But the feds appear to have cast a broader net, reviewing helicopter log books and other travel records related to the frequent trips Edmonson took during his nine years as superintendent.

In what appears to be a new vector, unrelated to the audit, federal investigators also are trying to determine whether Edmonson ever sought freebies from casino owners or anyone else subject to State Police gaming regulations.

“The questioning of the pilots has been strictly about Edmonson and whether there was personal use” of the helicopters, said one of the law enforcement officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.

Edmonson relied on Department of Public Safety helicopters for dozens of in-state flights a year, including relatively short journeys to New Orleans from State Police headquarters in Baton Rouge to attend news conferences or to meet with officials at the FBI’s Lakefront headquarters.

Federal authorities do not appear to be focusing on the fiscal prudence of Edmonson’s travel but rather whether he improperly extended the use of state helicopters to family members or friends. That determination could be aided by flight manifest records, some of which were redacted by the State Police in response to a public records request filed several years ago by The Advocate.

More on the LSP Crib

12/17/2017

The (Baton Rouge, LA) Advocate has a front-page story with more details on the infamous “crib” located at the Department of Public Safety’s Baton Rouge compound.

Is it legal? Mike Edmonson’s tax-free lifestyle sparks questions about other Louisiana-paid housing

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

The legislative auditor’s report that lambasted Mike Edmonson reverberated through the state Capitol last week, as lawmakers heard testimony that the former State Police superintendent exploited taxpayer money to provide a life of perks and privilege for his family.

Among the audit’s chief findings was that Edmonson and his family lived rent-free at the State Police compound in Baton Rouge, relying on prisoners for cooking, cleaning and even dog-walking services for nearly nine years.

That allegation — and claims the state dropped the ball by not including the accommodations in Edmonson’s W-2 income — raises questions about similar state-paid housing arrangements extended to certain university presidents, prison wardens and other officials across state government.

Dozens of other state employees who receive complimentary housing do not pay taxes for that benefit because the accommodations are a condition of their employment. That appears to be a key difference in the case of Edmonson, who became the first superintendent to move his family into the Residential Conference Center, a property built in 2002 to house the governor and State Police superintendent during emergency situations.

Edmonson’s successor, Col. Kevin Reeves, now stays at the residence during the week but returns to his home and family in Jackson Parish on weekends. “I do not by any means live in the house,” Reeves said. “It is a place for me to stay and lay my head while I’m here.”

Remember, there’s a special session of the Legislature coming within the next few months, and all we’ll hear from Bel Edwards and the thieves at the State Capitol is that we’re not paying enough taxes.

Col Reeves Now “Staying” @ Edmonson LSP Crib

12/15/2017

LSP “Crib”, DPS Compound, Independence Blvd, Baton Rouge

Just past the end of Government Street, on land once occupied by the Baton Rouge Downtown Airport sits the Louisiana Department of Safety compound. There, you will find the Louisiana State Police Headquarters, the LSP Training Academy, LSP Crime Lab, the Office of Motor Vehicles, the State Fire Marshal, and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Also, you’ll find a nice crib, the one that was home to former LSP Colonel Mike Edmonson from 2008 to 2017. The one he lived in tax-free, with maid service and meals. We’re not sure how large it is, but a rough guess is 3 thousand square feet. It has a three-car garage, and a basketball goal in the driveway.

Yesterday’s meeting of the Legislative Audit Advisory Council talked about it a good bit, and one of the council members (Rep Blake Miguez) ask new LSP head Col. Kevin Reeves about his housing arrangements.

“Presently, I stay in the housing during the week when I’m in town working on the compound, but I do not by any means live in the house. It is a place for me to stay, lay my head while I’m here,” said Reeves.

It wasn’t made clear in the meeting whether or not Reeves pays taxes on what is obviously a valuable benefit of employment.

See the entire two-hour meeting here.

Audit: LSP’s Edmonson was a Dirty Cop

12/02/2017

Scathing audit finds Mike Edmonson took repeated handouts, used State Police role for personal gain

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

As Louisiana’s longest-tenured State Police superintendent, Mike Edmonson created a life of luxury for his family at taxpayers’ expense, ordering troopers to chauffeur his wife around the state, tapping state resources to service his son’s Jeep and even relying on trusties to walk the family dog at the Department of Public Safety compound where the Edmonsons lived rent-free for years.

Edmonson, who retired amid scandal this year, also allowed friends to stay in New Orleans hotel rooms — paid for by the city of New Orleans — reserved for troopers providing security at Mardi Gras; ate free meals at the State Police cafeteria; ordered inmates to deliver food to his residence; and improperly used the Governor’s Mansion dry-cleaning service to clean his uniforms — while taking a stipend from the state for dry cleaning.

Those are among the findings of a scathing report being finalized this month by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office — an inquiry that portrays Edmonson as a freeloader who never turned down a handout.

The report, a draft of which was obtained by The Advocate, concludes that Edmonson may have broken several laws during his nine years as superintendent, a tenure marked by a pattern of using public resources for personal benefit and questionable excesses, like free tickets to the annual Endymion ball.

Update: Retired LSP head Mike Edmonson

11/30/2017

Retired Louisiana State Police head Mike Edmonson deleted texts, misled public after Vegas ‘side trip,’ inquiry finds

BY JIM MUSTIAN | jmustian@theadvocate.com

A newly released State Police report contains potentially criminal allegations against Mike Edmonson, the agency’s former longtime superintendent, including a claim that he deleted text messages on the eve of his retirement as the agency was investigating a group of troopers who charged taxpayers for overtime and expensive stays at the Grand Canyon and a Las Vegas casino resort as they drove to a law enforcement conference in California.

The report also concluded it was “obvious” that Edmonson knew all along of the scenic detours the troopers took on their cross-country trek to San Diego last year, even as Edmonson insisted publicly that he had not approved of the so-called side trip and condemned the excursion as “irresponsible.” In fact, cellphone records showed Edmonson had been in touch with the troopers throughout the trip, and that he received photographs of the troopers sightseeing and posing in front of the Hoover Dam.

But perhaps the most startling allegation in the report involves an interaction in March between Edmonson and Rodney Hyatt, a trooper who was recently demoted for submitting falsified time sheets from the road trip and disregarding a host of other State Police policies.

On March 14, the same day internal investigators briefed Edmonson, the then-superintendent met with Hyatt at a Louisiana Trooper Foundation meeting and told him he had decided to step down. Edmonson then took Hyatt’s cellphone and altered its settings so it would purge any text messages older than 30 days, according to the State Police report, warning the trooper that they would otherwise remain on the device “forever.”

Now it’s DeSoto Parish

10/26/2017

Former Desoto Parish District Attorney’s Office employee indicted for stealing fees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, October 26, 2017

SHREVEPORT, La. – Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced that a federal grand jury indicted a Converse woman for seven counts of mail fraud.

Melanie Barber, 35, of Converse, La., was employed by the Desoto Parish District Attorney’s office from April 2002 until February 2014. From at least 2004 to 2014, she negotiated money orders made payable to and intended for the Desoto Parish District Attorney’s Office. The money orders were collected by worthless checks and diversion fees but negotiated by Barber at several local banks and retailers for her personal use.

Barber faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine per count. She also faces forfeiture.

The FBI and the Mansfield Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike O’Mara is prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Edmonson’s Golden Parachute

03/28/2017

Edmonson files for over $128K in retirement benefits

Written by: Tom Wright, Investigative Producer
Contributor: Lee Zurik, Chief Investigative Reporter

New Orleans (WVUE) The former head of Louisiana State Police will draw more than $128,000 a year in retirement benefits, according to a statement from the State Police Retirement System.

LSP Col. Mike Edmonson filed paperwork to begin receiving that income, following his retirement announcement on March 15. That retirement followed a Lee Zurik investigation into revelations about travel expenses incurred when Edmonson invited several other LSP employees to a police conference and award ceremony in San Diego late last year. The total cost came to about $70,000.

The expenses came under both news media and state scrutiny; Edmonson himself pledged an internal probe, Gov. John Bel Edwards ordered an audit by the Division of Administration, and U.S. Senator John Kennedy called for Edmonson’s resignation and a legislative audit.

School Money Missing in Ouachita

03/20/2017

From the Louisiana Legislative Auditor

Nearly $22,000 Missing from a Ouachita Parish Middle School’s Bank Account

An examination of West Ridge Middle School’s (WRMS) records showed that nearly $22,000 that should have been deposited into the school’s student activity bank account could not be accounted for, the Legislative Auditor said in a report released today.

The examination was conducted in response to a request from the Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Auditors found that, between October 2013 and October 2014, $11,600 collected from eighth-grade honor students for a trip to Walt Disney World was not deposited into the school’s student activity bank account. WRMS teacher and trip sponsor Jodie Dean was responsible for collecting the money.

In addition, auditors found that student activity payments totaling $10,301 were received but not deposited into the student activity fund bank account between May 2014 and May 2015. Stacey Rogers, the WRMS bookkeeper at the time, was responsible for receiving, recording, processing, and/or depositing all of the missing funds. In some cases, records show the bookkeeper gave a receipt to a faculty sponsor for a greater amount than the receipt in the school’s records.

Both women have denied taking any of the missing money.

See here the complete report.