Ex-clerk in Treasurer's Office charged with embezzling $210,000

May 12, 2010 

A former Beaufort County Treasurer's Office employee -- who continued to work for the department after once caught stealing $600 -- was charged Wednesday with stealing more than $210,000 from public accounts by funneling money to dummy companies she and her boyfriend set up, according to Sheriff P.J. Tanner.

Casaundra White, 29, of Yemassee was arrested Wednesday and charged with six counts of embezzlement of public funds and five counts of criminal conspiracy. She was being held Wednesday night at the Beaufort County Detention Center, awaiting a 9 a.m. bond hearing today.

White's boyfriend, Adrian Coore, 36, also is wanted on five counts of criminal conspiracy. He had not been arrested as of Wednesday night, though Tanner said investigators believe Coore is in Beaufort County.

Investigators say that between September 2007 and May 2008, White and Coore set up bank accounts in the names of at least three fake corporations. White filed paperwork with the Treasurer's Office to make it appear as though the corporations had overpaid the county, making them eligible for a reimbursement check.

Once the check was issued, White would deposit it into one of the dummy corporations' bank accounts and later withdraw the money for personal use.

Company names included C&A Researcher Co., Celtic Developments and CNT Researchers, according to authorities.

"The only funds that were in those accounts was money from the Beaufort County Treasurer's Office," said Staff Sgt. Brian Baird, the case's lead investigator. "They never did any actual business."

The first check, written in May 2007 to C&A Researcher Co., was for $1,848.

Seven more, written to Celtic Developments in 2008, added up to $67,199, according to arrest warrants.

In total, White had 11 checks written to her fraudulent companies worth $210,012.

Tanner declined to say how White and Coore spent the money.

County Treasurer Joy Logan said there was little she could have done to prevent the thefts.

"If you've got someone who wants to steal, they're going to find a way to do it," Logan said. "She knew how to cover all of this up within the office. The way she did this thing, we could have been standing right behind her, and we never would have known. She is just a smart criminal mind. She needs to be incarcerated for this."

County Administrator Gary Kubic said not enough was done to prevent White from stealing from the county.

"To me, this confirms my worst fears that we have a breach of confidence in the Treasurer's Office by the county at large," Kubic said. "That breach of confidence is not going to be restored by making excuses."

If convicted, White faces five to 10 years in prison on each embezzlement count and up to five years for each count of conspiracy.

The investigation is ongoing, and Baird said it's possible investigators will find more checks White had written to other dummy corporations.

FAMILIAR SUSPECT

White was arrested in March by the Sheriff's Office and charged with misdemeanor breach of trust with fraudulent intent for stealing $600 from the Treasurer's Office in 2007.

Logan said White confessed in 2007 to stealing the money and gave it back. White told Logan and others that her father was ill and she took the money to pay bills. Since the money was immediately paid back, Logan said, she didn't feel it necessary to contact the police.

"That was peanuts compared to this," Logan said. "I made a mistake that I didn't know until later was a mistake. I've learned that I need to be a little more realistic with how much I trust people."

White resigned in 2007 after the theft and was re-hired by the Treasurer's Office the following year,according to county records. She was fired Feb. 19 after Logan was notified by the Sheriff's Office that it intended to pursue criminal charges against the former employee for the 2007 theft.

Logan has said she rehired White because she thought her former employee deserved a second chance.

Logan has cooperated with investigators, according to the Sheriff's Office.

INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

White's arrests were the result of a continuing Sheriff's Office investigation into the disappearance of thousands of dollars from a property-tax delinquency sale in October.

That inquiry was initiated by Kubic, who asked Tanner to look into "financial discrepancies" in the Treasurer's Office late last year. That money -- estimated to be less than $10,000 in cash -- has yet to be found, and Tanner said White also is a person of interest in that investigation.

When it was discovered Logan failed to report the alleged 2007 theft, Kubic and 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone hired accountants from the Atlanta office of KPMG to perform a forensic audit of Treasurer's Office accounts.

Tanner said that during that review, auditors discovered several large checks written to the three companies.

"Without that audit, we never would have found this," Tanner said. "It had to be done. There was no other way to do this."

Kubic said the county paid the firm more than $100,000 to perform the audit, which ended earlier this month.

Stone said he will continue to take seriously any amount of public money that has been stolen or misused.

"Any time you're dealing with public money, you're dealing with public trust," Stone said.

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