State employee gambles over $1M in citizens' tax money at casino - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

State employee gambles over $1 million in citizens' tax money at casinos

Deborah Loper (Source: EBRSO) Deborah Loper (Source: EBRSO)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

A former DHH employee turned herself in to authorities after she was accused of stealing more than $1 million from the state during her employment; and reports say she spent most of the money at casinos.

According to reports, Deborah Loper, 46, was put in charge in 2006 of managing a bank account opened to fund the National Association of State Human Services Financial Officers' 2009 winter conference, which was held in Louisiana.  After the conference ended, Loper was told to close the account.

Authorities say Loper faked and submitted documents to show that the account was closed.  She changed the address on the account so she could receive all mail for the account at her home. Over a six-year period, March 2007 through January 2013, Loper is accused of depositing checks totaling $1,058,446.27 into the account.

Loper abruptly resigned from DHH in February 2013 after finding out the account had been frozen by the bank for potential fraudulent activity. According to DHH, she was officially terminated on March 22, 2013.

Most of the checks deposited into the account were Medicaid reimbursements which were supposed to be payable to DHH from licensed Medicaid providers. During the investigation, it was discovered that the majority of the money was spent at area casinos.

"Ms. Loper squandered hundreds of thousands of tax dollars meant for invaluable health care services for Louisiana's Medicaid recipients and used her position as a public servant for her own personal gain. This type of despicable activity erodes public trust and confidence in our government programs and will not be tolerated," stated Attorney General Caldwell. "She will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," he added.

Loper turned herself in and on Tuesday she was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

She has been charged with theft by fraud, money laundering and malfeasance in office.  She faces up to 115 years in prison if convicted.

DHH filed a civil suit on May 13, 2013 to preserve its rights against Loper and the bank in order to recover the stolen funds.

UPDATE:

DHH released a lengthy audit with more details of the fraud and theft. The audit states:

"From March 27, 2007, to February 1, 2013, former Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) Fiscal Director Deborah Loper diverted checks issued to DHH totaling at least $1,058,446 to a private bank account for personal use. DHH's lack of adequate internal controls over incoming mail and funds transfers appears to have allowed Ms. Loper to divert these checks to a private bank account without detection. Because Capital One Bank allowed Ms. Loper to deposit checks issued to DHH into a private bank account, Ms. Loper was able to convert these public funds for personal use. By diverting public funds for personal use, Ms. Loper may have violated state and federal laws.1"

To read the complete audit (.pdf), click here http://bit.ly/11vqpHg.

Copyright 2013 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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