Fill ‘er Up Fraud

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It can be a costly lesson on both sides when public employees who are entrusted with the ability to make purchases on behalf of the government that employs them instead abuse their authority. According to a Hattiesburg American report, a former city Water Department employee in Mississippi fraudulently used government-issued gas cards to rack up more than $10,000 in charges, which the city was responsible for paying. (Didn’t they know that water and oil don’t mix?)

This swipe-ster landed before a judge to answer charges for embezzlement, after investigators for the City of Hattiesburg were able to trace the charges back to when this former city worker was still employed at the Water Department. According to the story, when the City Council questioned the pending payments to the oil company, they discovered that the administration was aware of the potential fraud and that an investigation by police was in progress. (Oops, did someone forget to send that memo?)

The 27-year-old man ended up pleading guilty to conspiracy, for which he received two years in prison, and two counts of credit card fraud, resulting in a total sentence of eight years behind bars with five years suspended. He also must pay a $1,000 fine, along with fines and fees related to court costs. (But the city was on the hook to pay the fuel card issuer for more than $14,000 because of the purchases.)

The report highlights a sliver of silver lining in the story: the city overhauled its entire checks-and-balance system around employee fuel cards.

The lesson here is, if you steal from the government—especially from on the inside—it’s not a question of if, but rather, when it will find you and make you pay. But it also shows that governments can end up with a costly lesson of their own.

Source: Today’s ”Fraud of the Day” is based on, ”Former city employee sentenced for fuel card fraud,” written by Lici Beveridge and published by Hattiesburg American on February 29, 2016.

A former City of Hattiesburg Water Department employee recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of credit card fraud.

Dennis Dejon Martin, 27, of Brusly, Louisiana, was sentenced Feb. 16 to two years for conspiracy, and three years each for credit card fraud, with three suspended for the first fraud count and two years suspended for the second. The suspended sentences will be conducted under post-release supervision. Martin also was fined $1,000 and must pay other fees and court costs.

“My biggest concern is if the city is made whole,” said Ward 1 Councilman Kim Bradley. “He needs to make restitution. He stole from the taxpayers.”

Martin was arrested in January 2014 and initially charged with embezzlement in connection to fraudulent purchases made on two city-issued gas cards made in 2013, while Martin was employed there.

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Larry Benson
Larry Benson is currently the Director of Strategic Alliances for Revenue Discovery and Recovery at LexisNexis Risk Solutions. In this role, Benson is responsible for developing partnerships for the tax and revenue and child support enforcement verticals. He focuses on embedded companies that have a need for third-party analytics to enhance their current offerings.