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Investigators to question Treasurer's Office employees about missing money

As authorities work to determine precisely how much money is missing from the Beaufort County Treasurer's Office, office employees might be asked to take polygraph tests to find out if anyone helped a co-worker charged with embezzling at least $210,000, county officials said Tuesday.

Former employee Casaundra White is accused of funneling money from public accounts through at least three dummy corporations she set up with her ex-boyfriend, Adrian Coore. She was arrested last week and charged with six counts of embezzlement of public funds and five counts of criminal conspiracy.

The investigation into White stemmed from authorities trying to track the disappearance of thousands of dollars from a property-tax delinquency sale in October. But financial records in the Treasurer's Office are in such disarray, authorities might never know how much money is missing from the county's tax sale, Sheriff P.J. Tanner said.

Tanner said Treasurer's Office records were "so scrambled" that finding the money was nearly impossible. The amount in question fluctuated wildly between $3,000 and $400,000, he said.

"There was no way we could use any of the information (Treasurer Joy Logan) gave us," Tanner said. "Those records and documentation couldn't define anything. We had no confidence in the numbers."

With regard to White, Tanner said investigators are trying to determine if other workers in the Treasurer's Office knew about or helped her direct money to accounts for the phony corporations.Investigators say that between September 2007 and May 2008, 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.

The checks were written by other Treasurer's Office employees and signed using a rubber stamp bearing Logan's signature before being deposited into one of the dummy corporations' bank accounts, according to investigators.

Tanner said it "would be premature at this point to say that any other employees were involved because the case is still active."

"I can't say anyone in that office was duped by Casaundra White," Tanner added. "This was not a difficult crime. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to take advantage of an opportunity. There was an opportunity presented to someone inside that office who knew the system and knew there was a soft spot."

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

Using information gathered from a forensic audit of the Treasurer's Office by the Atlanta office of KPMG, county administrator Gary Kubic said Treasurer's Office employees likely will be interviewed by sheriff's investigators and possibly asked to take polygraph tests.

"The information from the audit will assist the Sheriff's Office investigators and allow them to ask more probative questions of the employees to find out who knows, who had access to what money and when they had access to it," Kubic said.

The county has paid KPMG about $230,000 so far for two audits of the Treasurer's Office, according to David Starkey, the county's chief financial officer.

Kubic said the forensic portion of the audit is "90 percent complete," and the results of a second KPMG audit examining Treasurer's Office procedures, performance and manuals are expected to be released early next week.

The KPMG audit was ordered by Kubic and 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone in March after sheriff's investigators discovered Logan failed to report White for allegedly stealing $600 from a bank deposit bag in 2007.

Kubic said a third audit being performed by the county's external auditor, Elliot Davis, as part of its annual review also will reveal problems in Logan's office. He did not know when the results of that audit would be available.

Tanner said that while the KPMG audit was successful in discovering checks written "to obvious dummy companies," investigators are no closer to finding the missing tax-sale proceeds because of poor record-keeping in Logan's office.

"I don't know that we're going to be successful in our initial cause or be able to prove anything," Tanner said.

Attempts to reach Logan for comment Tuesday were unsuccessful.

In interviews, she has said little could have prevented White from stealing money, calling the former employee "a shrewd artist," in a news conference Monday.

SECOND SUSPECT STILL AT-LARGE

The Sheriff's Office still is searching for Coore, a 36-year-old Jamaican national who owns a home on Walker Circle in Burton, according to county tax records.

"We honestly don't know where he's at; we just know he's not in custody yet," Tanner said. "We know he does frequent Jamaica and that he's in and out of the country."

Tanner said his office has sought help from the National Crime Index Center and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to find Coore, who has been wanted for nearly a week on five counts of criminal conspiracy. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison for each count of conspiracy.

Coore was arrested by the Sheriff's Office in June 2009 on one charge of aggravated criminal domestic violence, but that charge was later dismissed, according to court records.

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