By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
A former Alcoa City School District employee who oversaw federal funds took nearly $500,000 in taxpayer money to use for herself, according to an audit Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson released Tuesday.
The former employee spent the money on her home mortgage, food, jewelry, clothing and iTunes songs, Wilson said. She even invested some of that money in a local gym, according to the audit.
Unlike many other state audits involving theft of taxpayer money, in which authorities already have indicted the accused government employee, officials haven’t arrested the employee yet, and they haven’t publicly identified her.
“Due to the fact that federal money is involved, this matter has been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Knoxville,” said Cortney Dugger, spokesman for Tennessee Ninth Judicial District, in a statement to Tennessee Watchdog.
Dugger couldn’t say whether local or federal officials, or both, would prosecute the case, assuming an arrest is made.
Director of Schools Brian Bell didn’t return Tennessee Watchdog’s messages seeking comment Tuesday, and neither did anyone at Knoxville’s U.S. State Attorney’s Office.
According to the audit, the former school district employee, who assisted the school district’s federal projects administrator, diverted the half-million dollars from the district and two professional organizations — the Tennessee Attendance Supervisors Steering Committee and the East Tennessee Attendance Supervisors Association — where she served as treasurer .
The audit also said the school district reimbursed her for 70 work-related trips that she didn’t actually take.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation assisted with the investigation, which covered almost six years, comptroller spokesman Blake Fontenay said in a news release.
The audit also said the school district and the two professional organizations didn’t properly oversee how the employee spent taxpayer money.
Wilson’s audits have turned up other financial irregularities across the state.
According to one recent audit, the former assistant director of the Crockett County Emergency Communications District stole more than $88,000 from that agency. A grand jury indicted her on charges of theft, forgery and official misconduct.
According to another recent audit, Hawkins County taxpayers are on the hook for $166,886 in late fees and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service. Former school finance director Myron Dale failed to notify the IRS about deposits to a payroll tax account used to deposit employee payroll taxes.
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