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Criminal Charges, Volume XXXIX: Official misconduct, put on credit

Jeremy Simon

As long as employers offer company credit cards, employees will make charges they probably shouldn’t.

When city governments provide plastic to employees, it’s no different. Just take the following examples of official misconduct — paid for on credit cards — as proof. Are you surprised that spear gun accessories, strip club visits, plastic surgery and hundreds of dollars in Krispy Kreme doughnuts wouldn’t be government-approved charges?

School chief’s wife charged with abusing plastic, buying Dane Cook film
Had I attended school in Monroe County, Fla., perhaps I wouldn’t remain so uneducated in the use of a spear gun.

Acevedo.jpgThat’s because speargun accessories were among the $95,000 in charges Monique Acevedo made in less than two years using school-issued plastic, explaining that her purchases were for valid school purposes. But the authorities disagreed, charging the wife of Monroe County school superintendent Randy Acevedo with grand theft and organizing a fraud scheme. Mrs. Acevedo was the former adult education coordinator for the school district.

Wondering what she used her school district credit card to buy? According to the Miami Herald, the list of card purchases includes pink silk ties, bar stools, speargun accessories, a table saw, a chandelier and the complete DVD box set of HBO TV series “Six Feet Under.” In addition, reports that Acevedo’s “other questionable purchases” included the DVDs of “Knocked Up” and “Good Luck Chuck,” a Jesus bandage from Fast Buck Freddie’s department store and two $19 payments for traffic school. (I’d like to believe calling “Good Luck Chuck” a “questionable” purchase is equally an indictment of the Dane Cook/Jessica Alba film masterpiece.)

If convicted, Acevedo could face up to 60 years in prison. Her husband hasn’t been implicated in any wrongdoing.

Police chief puts bar, casino, strip club outings on city credit card
Feel the need to whip out plastic at casinos and strip clubs? Then leave your employer’s credit card at home.

That’s a lesson one hopes was learned by Brent Liddy, acting police chief of Walled Lake, Mich. Liddy’s trips to the Copper Mug bar in Walled Lake, the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit and Omar’s Showbar (not surprisingly, a gentleman’s club) in Lansing, Mich., in December 2008 and January 2009 were uncovered when the cleverly named Spinal Column Newsweekly used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain city credit card records.

Liddy rang up some sizable tabs on the card, charging $105 at the Copper Mug, $1,054 at the MGM Grand and $600 at Omar’s Showbar.

“At least three city officials have confirmed that it was Liddy who used the city credit card on those dates and at those locations, although some officials say that Liddy’s use of the city credit card was ‘inadvertent,'” the Spinal Column reports.

“Other financial records provided by City Councilman Casey Ambrose indicate Liddy paid off those charges with his own funds. Some city officials have stated Liddy paid for the charges before the city made any kind of payment toward the card’s balance,” the newsweekly reports.

Additionally, the Spinal Column was able to obtain a copy of Walled Lake’s current credit card policy. Unless gambling and ogling nude women is city business, it sounds like all of Liddy’s charges broke the rules. “The policy expressly prohibits ‘personal uses’ of city issued credit cards and specifies that cards cannot be used for ‘liquor’ purchases. The policy further provides that the penalty for ‘wrongful use’ shall include ‘disciplinary action, up to and including discharge, and/or civil or criminal action,'” the newsweekly reports.

Kansas City employees charge their good times, doughnuts
City card abuse also apparently occurred in Kansas City, where an auditor’s report found numerous examples of employee misuse. Those charges included $22,000 in prohibited hospitality and entertainment purchases, including nearly $400 in spending at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts.

After examining a little more than $4 million in employee credit card transactions made between May 1, 2006, and Nov. 30, 2007, auditors found “prohibited purchases, significant problems with missing documentation and at least one potential misuse of city funds,” reports.”That transaction involved $750 for a banquet staged by a local political action committee in 2007 even though state law prohibits the use of public funds to support a political candidate.”

Additionally, the auditors considered 49 purchases for hospitality and entertainment, which at the time were prohibited. Those charges included $4,500 for a party at Embassy Suites, $3,576 for another party at Union Station and $1,972 for an employee morale event at Worlds of Fun. Employees also spent $1,100 at the Peachtree Restaurant, $395 at Krispy Kreme and $257.50 at Stroud’s restaurant. That’s a lot of fun — and doughnuts. Still, no alcohol charges appeared.

According to the assistant city manager, several people lost their jobs over the credit card misuse.

The auditors’ report notes that certain hospitality and entertainment purchases are now permitted, provided employees first gain approval.

Philly nonprofit director alleged to have put personal expenses on city plastic
Two Philadelphia municipal employees were accused of defrauding the city out of more than $200,000. Authorities say Doreana Kearney, the former executive director of city-funded nonprofit organization Colours, opened a number of credit cards in the organization’s name from 2004 to 2007, charging personal expenses to the plastic.

“Kearney is charged with misappropriating $138,000 to pay for elective surgery, a vacation cruise, clothing, shoes, jewelry, salon service, groceries, gas, dining, cable TV, home repairs, furniture and pet food,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. “An information sheet released by the city referred to the surgery as ‘plastic surgery,’ but city and federal officials declined to elaborate.”

According to prosecutors, Kearney used the money on herself without the knowledge or authorization of Colours’ board of directors. The Associated Press describes Colours as “a nonprofit organization serving the city’s gay and lesbian community.”

If convicted, Kearney faces 12 to 18 months in prison.

See related: Corporate card shenanigans — got some to share?

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