State Auditor Shad White announced Eureda “Edie” Washington and Joe Lowder have been indicted for defrauding the state’s Workforce Enhancement Training (WET) program.
Special Agents separately delivered demand letters to Washington, Lowder, and two other individuals – Jennifer and David Schock – who do not face criminal charges.
“I’m thankful for investigators’ work which put a stop to this improper workforce training spending,” said White. “Now is the time for policymakers to acknowledge there are not enough fraud-prevention safeguards in place in our workforce training program. Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on this every year. We need to be sure the money is being used appropriately.”
Washington is accused of submitting fraudulent documents to ICC and obtaining over $680,000 in WET funding for a furniture manufacturing company owned by Jennifer and David Schock.
Since Washington had previous experience applying for WET program funds, she purportedly controlled the application paperwork submitted by the company and was paid a percentage of the WET funds it was awarded.
The applications she submitted showed discrepancies like people being listed as a student in one class at the same time they were listed as an instructor in a different class.
Payable by all three, an $864,918.72 demand was issued to Washington and the Schocks.
Lowder allegedly manufactured fraudulent documents meant to obscure a double-billing scheme.
By intentionally billing both private companies and the Mississippi Community College Board (MCCB) for WET program expenditures, the department’s revenue increased while taxpayers lost around $10,000.
Lowder was issued a $12,818.28 demand letter.
Additionally, ICC paid a large amount of WET funds to a private company without ensuring program requirements had been met. The college owes over $1.4 million to taxpayers for their failure to follow WET program guidelines.
No surety bond covers Washington, the Schocks, or Lowder. Surety bonds are similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers in the event that public money is misspent.
Washington and Lowder will remain liable for the full amounts of their demands in addition to individual criminal charges.
If you know of other fraud—including fake timesheets for workforce training programs or false billing for these programs—please report this to the Auditor’s office by clicking the red “Report Fraud” button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.
In a similar investigation two former Coahoma Community College employees were caught in one of the largest embezzlement schemes at that time after a year of investigation by the state auditor’s office in September 2018.
That case is pending in Coahoma County Circuit Court and no repayment has been made at this time.
According to state auditor Shad White at a press conference in the Coahoma County Courthouse at the time the charges were announced, the investigation concluded Stacie Neal from the CCC accounts payable business office and administrative assistant Gwendolyn Jefferson embezzled an estimated $758,000 from 2013-17.
The embezzled amount, plus the $194,000 interest and $28,000 cost for the investigation add up to the $981,600.64. Neal and Jefferson are being told to pay back $981,600.64.
At the time the investigation was announced, White said the auditor’s office only deals with civil matters and district attorney Brenda Mitchell would handle the prosecution.
“What our file is going to detail is that, from at least 2013 to 2017, these two individuals who were working in purchasing at the community college, were taking government procurement cards and they were going to Kroger,” White said. “They were going to Walmart, here in Clarksdale. They were going on Amazon. Many times, they were swiping the cards. They were purchasing gift cards from the stores. They would take those gift cards and do whatever they wanted to with them.”
White said multiple cards were being used and, as Neal and Jefferson kept everything a secret, the amount of money they were spending increased. He added they were going on to the Amazon website and purchasing items such as watches, shoes and a chandelier.
Mitchell has said, if there is a prosecution, it would be in Coahoma County, but the timetable is a question mark.
Kappi Allen, former executive director of the Coahoma County Tourism Commission, pleaded guilty to embezzlement at a hearing in Circuit Judge Al Smith’s courtroom in Cleveland Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. She is paying off her demand.
Clarksdale Public Utilities office manager Maple Melton has been indicted on nine counts of embezzlement. A formal demand in the amount of $3,871.92 was issued on Dec. 14, 2015. On March 17, 2017, this case was transmitted to the Office of the Attorney General. For Fiscal Year 2021, no payments have been received. Melton is also currently awaiting trial.
The prosecution and Allen both agreed Allen embezzled more than $25,000, which means, according to Smith, the maximum sentence is 20 years in prison or a $25,000 fine.
However, the amount of money Allen embezzled while in her position with the tourism commission is still in question. She was charged with embezzling $93,345.34 — more than $56,000 in funds and more than $35,000 for other things such as taking her granddaughter to Disney World.
Allen has been paying restitution as part of her plea and probation agreement with the state.
Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online any time by clicking the red “Report Fraud” button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.