Audit released, cites weaknesses in Sheriff’s Office

Published 11:45 pm Friday, December 19, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE — Lack of internal accounting controls at the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office enabled a contract employee to allegedly embezzle more than $42,000 over the course of a year and a half, a recently released audit reports.

Released on Monday by the Louisiana State Auditor’s Office, the audit was conducted by Carr, Riggs & Ingram LLC of Metairie and covered transactions and records for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014.

Sheriff’s Office contract worker Rachel Marie Bourgeois, 43, of Fairway Drive in LaPlace, was arrested at her home Aug. 28 on a judicial court ordered arrest warrant and charged with theft by systematic practices, forgery, filing or maintaining false public records and public payroll fraud.

Sheriff Mike Tregre said in August St. John Sheriff’s Office detectives and the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General started a joint investigation July 2 concerning the suspected systematic theft by Bourgeois, a Sheriff’s Office contract employee.

“The investigation revealed that Bourgeois altered invoices; doubled billed the Sheriff’s Office for transcript work; and submitted fraudulent invoices, resulting in being paid multiple times for the same transcript,” a press release from the Sheriff’s Office said. “Documents of evidence of the investigation revealed that Bourgeois illegally collected $42,534 between January 2013 and June 2014. The total dollar amount stolen by Bourgeois and the period of the thefts are presently unknown pending further investigation of Sheriff’s Office records.”

The audit states “the Sheriff should have systems of internal accounting control which ensure the safeguarding of the Sheriff’s assets.”

Chief Civil Deputy Jeffrey Clemet, who heads the St. John Sheriff’s Office, said new systems and procedures are in place to prevent such embezzlement from taking place again.

In another finding, auditors said the Sheriff’s Office failed to adhere to state bid law in five out of 25 purchases they studied.

The audit findings include a Sheriff’s Office corrective action plan, which said “the Sheriff will develop a written policy governing all purchases to ensure the Sheriff remains in compliance with Louisiana Public Bid Law.”

The response also states new computerized purchasing software, which was implemented in July 2014, “should assist the Sheriff to be in compliance” with the laws.

Audit findings related to Sheriff’s Office financial statements also indicated a lack of internal controls over cash receipts of ticket revenue, weaknesses in preparation of financial statements, a lack of internal accounting control for capital assets, inadequate segregation of accounting functions, a lack of adequate policies in place regarding credit card transactions and non-compliance with public bid law.

Clement said his department “is in the process of developing new policies and procedures to oversee the accounting department,” and said additional policies, increased oversight and new computer programs should ensure all issues being remediated.