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September 26, 2007

Comptroller’s Audit Uncovers Theft of Nearly $29,000
by Delaware County Sheriff’s Department Employee

Whereabouts of Another $23,000 Questioned

As a result of an audit by the State Comptroller’s Office, a Delaware County Sheriff’s Department clerk admitted to stealing at least $28,752 in public funds, Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said today. Auditors also could not account for an additional $22,985 because of the irregular nature of computer transactions.

“The Delaware Sheriff’s Department did not have safeguards in place to protect public funds, and now more than $28,000 has been stolen and another $23,000 could be missing,” DiNapoli said. “This is the taxpayers’ money. It should be protected. My office will continue to cooperate with District Attorney Richard Northrup and Sheriff Thomas Mills to ensure that every dollar is recovered.”

The audit was conducted at the request of Sheriff Mills.

In August, office clerk Julie Pietrefesa, who worked for the department from January 2003 to December 2006, pled guilty to stealing $28,752. Auditors found that $23,203 of this money came from civil fees collected by clerks that were not recorded in the computer receipt system or deposited in the bank.

Auditors found that Pietrefesa was able to take $5,549 in wage garnishment payments because management did not periodically review garnishment allocation records. In New York, sheriff’s departments process court-ordered civil judgments. In some cases, moneys are withheld from a person’s wages and given to sheriffs’ departments to pay creditors of these civil judgments. Pietrefesa misappropriated wage garnishment payments withheld from other county employees to pay her own personal civil judgment.

Auditors questioned the propriety of the $22,985 for the following reasons:

  • they could not find back-up documentation to support receipts that were on file;
  • the clerks could not explain the transactions;
  • several people had full access rights to the computer system;
  • computerized data was deleted or manipulated;
  • there was no segregation of financial duties, which means the same person was able to collect moneys, record receipts and make bank deposits without supervisory or peer confirmation that any of these activities had ever taken place;
  • lack of receipt accountability; and
  • all the clerks had access to the same cash drawer.

Comptroller DiNapoli recommended that the Sheriff take the following actions:

  • attempt to recoup the lost moneys;
  • provide greater oversight, set up a system where receipts are accounted for and periodically reviewed to be sure all moneys are accounted for;
  • periodically review wage garnishments to be sure they are properly allocated;
  • separate financial duties among the clerks;
  • ensure signature stamps are properly secured when not in use; and
  • secure financial data and track all data modifications.

The Sheriff’s Department agreed with our findings and recommendations. The department’s full response is included in the audit report.

Click here for a copy of the audit.


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