BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A Baton Rouge police officer withheld evidence then falsified a report, two other officers claimed more than $1,800 in payroll hours they didn't work, and city administrators were duped into giving $20,000 to an online scammer. Those are just some of the findings in the city-parish's fiscal audit released by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor on Monday.
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera released the findings early Monday morning, noting eight incidents of "fraud or misappropriation" found during a comprehensive financial review of the City-Parish of East Baton Rouge for the 2017 year. The audit was performed by CPA firm Postlethwaite & Netterville and affirmed by Purpera's office.
Among the findings is a phishing scam in which the city-parish administration gave more than $20,000 to a scammer who sent a phony email posing as a city vendor requesting payment for services. The fraud occurred this January. The identity of the scammer is unknown but is not believed to be an employee.
The city-parish was able to recover most of the money with help from the bank that handled the funds' transfer, and Baton Rouge's Internal Auditing Division is "working on an internal control report with recommendations to prevent a future occurrence," the report says.
Another finding concerns the alleged "theft of evidence" in which "seized evidence was withheld by an arresting (BRPD) officer" in November 2017. The evidence was a marijuana cigarette. The officer also allegedly filed a false report about the incident. Additional details were not given, and the case is still open.
Two other BRPD officers are the subjects of a third finding of misappropriation, which the audit describes as "payroll fraud."
According to the report, "Two BRPD officers claimed hours worked, but GPS records indicate that they were at home during these periods of time."
This incident occurred in August 2017 and resulted in a loss of more than $1,800 in taxpayer money. Despite this, the case was never prosecuted, restitution has not been made, and the officers are still employed.
Other highlights of the audit include:
- Overtime payments to two Environmental Services Division employees who may not have worked the extra time
- A city-parish fleet manager’s purchase of auto parts for a personal vehicle using city-parish funds
- The theft of fuel by a non-employee using a misplaced city-parish fuel card
- Unauthorized use of a city-parish trailer by an Environmental Services Division employee
- Payroll fraud by a Head Start employee who was not at work but was clocked in by two fellow workers
The total known dollar amount of the misappropriations is estimated to be $25,300 after the recovery of the $20,000 from the online scammer.
Additional details can be found in the full audit report on the LLA's website.