ST. GEORGE — The State Law Enforcement Division is investigating missing money at the Dorchester County Detention Center for the second time in six years.
Some $50,000 is suspected to have been taken from the jail, and county officials are concerned it might be more. A random internal audit discovered the apparent embezzlement, authorities said Tuesday.
Sheriff L.C. Knight requested that SLED conduct an investigation. A five-year employee suspected in the incident “is no longer employed at the sheriff’s department,” Knight said. No charges have been filed yet.
The exact amount missing hasn’t been determined yet, but Knight and County Councilman George Bailey confirmed the suspected amount so far is in the range of $50,000.
Knight was elected to office in 2008 after a scandal emerged under former Sheriff Ray Nash over $363,000 in missing money. A jail employee was arrested, and Nash did not run for re-election. Knight during his campaign railed on Nash for the management failure. Both Nash and Knight put in measures to prevent it from happening again.
“I hate it. But it happened,” Knight said Tuesday. “We had internal controls. We thought we had everything in place where it could not happen. You put safeguards in place, and if somebody works at it long enough, they find a way around it.”
More controls already have been put in place to close the loophole, he said.
County Council Chairman Bill Hearn and Bailey, chairman of council’s Public Safety Committee, said Knight had taken the appropriate measures and they are confident the incident doesn’t indicate ongoing money management problems at the jail.
Knight will meet with council behind closed doors Monday to further discuss it, Hearn said.
“Any amount taken, particularly in that situation, is of concern,” Hearn said.
The alleged embezzlement was acknowledged in a one-line police report. The Post and Courier requested any supplemental reports and a copy of the audit.
“There are no more additional reports at this time,” Chief Deputy Sam Richardson said in an email. “We are still in the early stages of the investigation. (The audit) is not ready at this time.” The Post and Courier has filed Freedom of Information Act requests for the information.
In February 2009, former jail chief Arnold Pastor was sentenced to 18 months in prison for siphoning off $363,000 from the detention center.
Pastor got in trouble after County Council asked for an audit of the Sheriff’s Office spending. The audit didn’t find any problems with Nash, other than not keeping a close enough eye on Pastor, who had unfettered access to the jail fund.
The forensic auditor and an investigation by SLED discovered that $363,000 had been diverted between 2005 and 2007 from a jail fund into a personal account Pastor set up. The money came from inmate phone calls, haircuts, medical charges, snacks and processing fees, as well as money inmates had on them when they were put in jail.
Pastor’s attorney has said his client didn’t spend the money on anything extravagant and that his wife, Tammy, had medical problems. Pastor had been working for the Sheriff’s Office since 1996 and was making less than $40,000 a year when he took the money. Pastor also was a firearms instructor, SWAT team member and dive team leader.
Authorities, however, said Pastor had diverted checks from a jail fund into a personal account. That account showed expenditures to a motel, $2,241 to Carnival Cruise Lines, a $599.45 cash card withdrawal on the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Sovereign of the Seas and more than 50 ATM withdrawals, authorities said.