WEST BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Two workers at the West Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office have been accused of pocketing thousands of dollars for personal use between July 2018 and August 2022, according to an audit conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office.
The investigative audit was carried out after WBRSO reported the issue to the LLA. Click here to read the full audit.
The report indicates that both employees might have violated state and federal law, and the findings have been sent to the 18th Judicial District Attorney and the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana.
Traffic ticket cash wasn’t deposited
WBRSO received $158,852 more in traffic ticket revenue than what was deposited between July 1, 2018 and July 31, 2022.
LLA investigators identified the WBRSO employee primarily responsible for traffic tickets. She reportedly admitted to taking cash collected for traffic tickets for personal use.
Auditors said the employee tried to hide her actions by falsifying transactions in WBRSO’s accounting records.
The report states that the employee “told us she took some of the cash collected for traffic tickets and deposited the money to her bank account or kept it for her personal use. She estimated the amount she took to be $150,000.”
Prisoners’ funds also went missing
Investigative auditors also inspected a second incident of missing funds that occurred between Jan. 1 and Aug. 2, 2022. During that time, the sheriff’s office reportedly received $6,996 more in fiduciary funds than was deposited in its fiduciary bank accounts. The money was from Work Release program employers or money from prisoner’s loved ones for canteen spending.
The audit identified another WBRSO employee suspected of taking the money. The report said she is “the employee primarily responsible for accounting for fiduciary funds.” It also quoted the WBRSO chief civil deputy saying she “told him she took cash from some deposits.” Auditors noted that the deposit dates were changed to show as in transit.
According to authorities, bank records also indicated two checks that amounted to $1,680 from the fiduciary account were paid to the employees for the fiduciary accounts, though the accounting records were altered to show a different payee after the checks were negotiated. It also appeared that the sheriff’s signature stamp authorized the checks.
The report added information from the chief civil deputy stating the employee “said she took cash from some deposits and provided deposit slips and $925 of checks that she hid in her desk. The deposit slips in her desk totaled $3,316, which included $2,391 in cash and $925 in checks.”
Authorities said the employee reimbursed the WBRSO $4,071 in August, which left $3,680 due to the WBRSO for missing deposits.
How is the department avoiding this in the future?
WBRSO Sheriff Michael B. Cazes said the agency has since taken steps to reduce the likelihood of this sort of theft from reoccurring.
Some of the measures taken include:
- Working to set up a fully-automated kiosk system that will reduce the handling of cash payments.
- Assigning an employee that does not collect payments to receive and deposit collections from cashiers every day.
- Settling cash drawers daily and ensuring they balance and match all accounting entries.
- Depositing cash daily.
- Eliminating use of a signature stamp and requiring that senior staff handle all check signing duties.
- Installing additional security cameras.
- Adding a secure deposit drop box that only senior management can access. There’s a corresponding log for the box, which is reconciled daily.