OKOLONA – State Auditor Shad White said late last month that agents from his office arrested former Okolona City Clerk Rebecca Moore after she was indicted for embezzlement.
A demand letter for $17,295 was issued to Moore before she was taken to prison, White said. The amount includes investigative costs and accrued interest.
According to White, Moore is accused of using her position to illegally pay herself for more than 400 hours of vacation time between 2016 and 2017. The alleged embezzlement was discovered when auditors from the CPA firm conducting the city’s annual audit noticed excessive payments made to Moore.
Investigators determined nearly $8,000 was lost by the city as a result of the scheme.
Agents took Moore to the Chickasaw County Regional Correctional Facility following her arrest. She was released after posting $10,000 bail.
She faces up to 10 years in prison and $25,000 in fines if convicted.
District Attorney Benjamin Creekmore’s office in the 3rd Judicial District will prosecute Moore.
A $50,000 surety bond covered Moore’s employment. A surety bond is similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers from embezzlement and corruption. Moore remains fully liable for the missing money and any criminal proceedings, White said.
“This case shows how private CPA firms and observant city officials can work together with investigators in the state auditor’s office to make sure taxpayer money isn’t stolen,” said White said in the release.
“Ms. Moore used her position to benefit herself, and taxpayers deserve better. I look forward to seeing justice done in this case.”
It was not the first time an Okolona city official came to the attention of the State Auditor’s office, according to a check of the audit exceptions for 2019 listed in the office’s website.
On Jan. 29, 2018, a formal demand in the amount of $709.08 was issued to Councilmember Regina Pickens for salary overpayment. On March 5, 2018, this case was transmitted to the Office of the Attorney General.
For Fiscal Year 2019, payment from the bond company was received, balance paid in full and returned to the appropriate deserving entity, according to the website.
An audit “exception” indicates that a violation of the law or an accounting error has resulted in a misappropriation or an incorrect expenditure of public funds. As a result, the money must be repaid.
The “exceptions” included in the report may refer to disallowed expenditures by officials who assumed the responsibility of reimbursing the appropriate entity when an audit exception was taken by the Office of the State Auditor, according to the department’s website.
“To those officials who cooperated with this effort we are sincerely grateful. Both the taxpayers and this agency benefited from their willingness to assure accountability in government,” White said.
Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.