Four Independence employees face charges of misusing town fuel cards

INDEPENDENCE, LA (WAFB) - An investigation by the Independence Police Department into four town maintenance employees culminated in all four turning themselves into the Tangipahoa Parish Prison on Tuesday.

"It's not just a matter of town employees, crime is crime," said Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards.

Edwards said the investigation of Reginald Jefferson, Charles Garafola, Jerome Cook and John Henson began in January after a tip and adds it became apparent to investigators the four men were illegally using town fuel cards. Edwards said he presented that information to the town council.

"The issue of the resolution came up because town is the victim and typically the victim makes a decision whether they want to pursue charges and I saw town as victim and we asked them and that's how they wanted to handle it," said Edwards.

According to Edwards, the employees charged stopped at the Quick Way and Exxon in town, swiped the town's fuel cards and entered a personal identification codes. Instead of filling up town trucks, Edwards says the employees often put gas in their own vehicles and sometimes it was even caught on tape.

"We felt these employees violated our trust and the citizen's trust by misusing cards and other things done illegally and felt they should be held accountable in a court of law," said Independence Alderman Calvin Batiste.

Mayor Michael Ragusa told 9News by phone he disagrees with the town's decision to press charges against the men and adds he was never shown any of the police department's evidence against the employees. Batiste acknowledges one employee was charged with taking less than $50 of gas but adds there is no telling how far back it goes.

"We looked at 30 days of invoices. We don't know what happened prior to that or what would have happened for months to come if we didn't stop it," added Batiste.

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