(The Center Square) — A former deputy clerk in Ouachita Parish faces criminal charges after they allegedly used the parish’s PayPal account to swindle $344,226 over four years, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor reports.

Auditor Mike Waguespack last week published an independent auditors report for the Ouachita Parish Clerk of the Court for the 2022 fiscal year that detailed the alleged fraud.

“During the previous fiscal year, it was discovered that beginning on a date prior to June 30, 2021, a former Ouachita Parish Clerk of the Court Deputy Clerk used on online money transfer system (PayPal) to divert $344,226 of public funds from the Clerk to himself from December 24, 2014, to October 10, 2018,” auditors wrote. “By improperly transferring and receiving public funds he was not entitled to receive, the employee may have violated state and federal law.”

Parish officials contacted the LLA and district attorney of the possible fraud and the LLA investigated the situation from December 2021 to June 2022. Former court clerk Louise Bond told the LLA the former employee was the only person with access to the PayPal account, which she did not monitor.

“The Clerk’s failure to implement proper segregation of duties allowed for the employee to transfer $344,226 of public funds without detection by the Clerk,” according to the audit report.

A previous audit from June 2022 identified the deputy clerk as Donald J. Ryder, Jr.

According to the report, “When Mr. Ryder left, Ms. Bond called Mr. Ryder to obtain the login information for the (PayPal) account, but Mr. Ryder refused to give her the information,” the report read. “The current Chief Deputy Clerk had to contact PayPal to obtain access to the account.”

“Mr. Ryder told us that he used his personal email address to transfer Clerk of Court funds to his PayPal account from the Clerk’s PayPal account and that the payments were authorized by the former Clerk Louise Bond to compensate him for operating the website,” auditors wrote. “Mr. Ryder provided us with a letter dated September 24, 2012 with Ms. Bond’s signature where Mr. Ryder was authorized to receive a maximum of $2,500 per month from PayPal for operating the website. The bottom of the letter contains a handwritten note, dated October 18, 2012, noting a verbal agreement with Ms. Bond to ensure $10,000 per month was deposited.”

Charges were filed against Ryder in October, though no other legal proceedings have occurred, according to the most recent report.

Parish officials responded to the alleged theft with several changes to prevent future incidents, including account access for both the clerk and chief deputy clerk, a weekly review of balances, coordinated fund transfers, and monthly reconciliation between the general fund and bank statements.