State Auditor Big On Collecting

During these extremely tight financial times, city, county and state agencies are closely watching every penny, and so is the state auditor's office. Since 1996, the state auditor's office has collected more than 3 million dollars of embezzled money mainly by public officials and government employees.

Investigator, Jesse Bingham says those people responsible are also paying the price. "Since November the first, 1996, we've had 72 public officials or employees that have been either arrested, indicted or pled guilty," said Bingham. State Auditor, Phil Bryant added, "We've had one institution of higher learning at the medical center which had a large embezzlement that was ongoing there. We recovered 190 thousand dollars several years ago in fact several days ago we got another 500 dollar check from the individual who embezzled that money, he'll be paying on that for many years to come." It's not only city, county or state agencies that are mishandling money. A Jackson car dealership was caught over charging nearly 300 thousand dollars for state vehicles. "It might have been by error," said Bryant. "But the dealership was very cooperative and once we presented that information to them then they were willing to reimburse the cities and counties and state entities for any over charges."

Investigator Bingham blames the millions of embezzled dollars on, what he calls, a lack of internal control and accountability. "These cases are not the most popular to prosecute. They're very complicated crimes to prove. Many times it takes 3-5 years of research and subpoenaed documents, putting a puzzle back together. And there's a lack of paper, lack of internal controls," Bingham said. But the state auditor says there won't be a lack of investigations.