MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - Two former employees of the City of Moss Point were arrested Friday on charges of embezzlement.
Kenya Bowens and Lakeshia Benton were both indicted by a grand jury assembled by outgoing District Attorney Tony Lawrence.
Bowens and Benton are accused of collecting cash payments from individuals paying water bill fines and later voiding the transaction receipts for fine payments. They concealed the cash collected from the fines in paper to take the cash from their office and met outside of work, after hours, to split the money.
According to the State Auditor’s Office, Bowens and Benton were caught when a supervisor noticed and reported an odd number of voided transactions authorized by the pair. Records indicate Bowens is responsible for $11,840.11, and Benton is responsible for $1,912.89 of improperly altered transactions, according to the state auditor’s office. The embezzlement is suspected to have taken place from March 2015 to August 2016.
“This case is another example of how conspiracies, where two or more people work together to conceal a crime, can be difficult to catch and can result in big losses for taxpayers," said State Auditor Shad White. "The way to prevent those kinds of conspiracies is what we call separation of duties—having more than just one or two people handling the money that comes into an organization.”
We will continue to enforce the law and put those who steal taxpayers’ money behind bars,” White said. “You do not work in government for your personal benefit. You work for the people.”
At the time of arrest, agents issued Bowens and Benton separate demand letters for over $30,000 cumulatively, which includes interest and investigative costs. The maximum penalty for each is a $5,000 fine or 20 years in prison.