Former Jackson Co. clerk accused of stealing $890,000

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - By Patrice Clark – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) – More than $890,000 of taxpayer money has been stolen in Jackson County, and investigators are pointing the finger at former county clerk Ginger Lynn Lashley. Lashley, 50, was served an eight count indictment for embezzlement Tuesday.

Ginger Lynn Lashley worked for Jackson County for eleven years. Officials believe for eight of those years, between 2001 and 2009, she was stealing county money and putting it into an account she set up. Lashley was fired and arrested in November 2009.

"It is easy to cover your tracks for a short period of time, but like my mother always said, your sins will find you out," State Auditor Stacey Pickering said.

The indictment alleges Lashley diverted county money into a personal savings account at a local bank. That account, entitled "Jackson County Food Drive," received regular deposits of county checks according to court papers.

Jackson County Sheriff Mike Byrd said bank officials became suspicious of the account in 2009 and alerted investigators. Byrd said the frequency and size of the deposits seemed suspect. He added there is no official county account for a "Jackson County Food Drive."

"They found some discrepancies in a deposit that was made and that is what led to the investigation some things didn't add up," Byrd said.

Lashley was first accused last year of stealing $125,000 of county money. However, as investigators dug deeper, the amount of money that disappeared from county coffers grew.

State Auditor Stacy Pickering said his office issued a demand against Lashley for $1,232,579.73, which includes the amount she is accused embezzling along with investigative costs.

"This is one of the largest embezzlement cases we've investigated by the State Auditor's Office and represents a significant loss to taxpayers of Jackson County," Pickering said.

Jackson County Board President Mike Mangum said since the investigation started, the County has implemented safe guards to prevent this type of activity from happening again.

"As public servants, we take this situation very seriously and understand our first responsibility is to be good stewards of the taxpayer's money," Mangum said.

"This is a pretty serious violation of the public trust; we are talking about $890,000 that was taken.  We are going to take a very serious approach with this prosecution," District Attorney Tony Lawrence said.

Lashley began working for the county in 1998. Investigators say the embezzlement began in 2001 when Lashley was working in the Accounts Payable office. She is currently out on bond awaiting her trial date.

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