The state Department of Children and Family Services’ former auditing director admitted in federal court Wednesday that he stole up to $200,000 from the agency since 2010 by using an assistant’s state credit card to buy personal items and also misused a state travel card to buy hotel suites in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and the NBA All-Star Game.
Delrice Jermaine Augustus, 34, of Baton Rouge, pleaded guilty to a charge of theft from a federally funded entity.
Augustus told U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick that he resigned from the agency Friday. He had been audit director since July 2009.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson told the judge that Augustus used a subordinate’s state credit card to buy personal items for himself and others, including an installed dishwasher, televisions, movies, cameras, wireless audio systems, gaming devices, mobile devices and vacuums.
“By using the subordinate’s card, Augustus eliminated oversight since Augustus, as the subordinate’s supervisor, reviewed and approved charges on the subordinate’s card,” the prosecutor said in court.
Amundson said Augustus also misused state travel and gas cards to pay for personal travel and entertainment expenses for himself and others, including gas, rental vehicles and hotel stays.
“One such occasion involved purchasing hotel suites in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and the NBA All-Star Game,” states a plea agreement signed by Augustus and his attorney, Ian Hipwell. The agreement also bears the names of Amundson and U.S. Attorney Walt Green.
Dick did not set a sentencing date for Augustus, who faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and restitution to the state.
The plea agreement says Augustus cost the state between $120,000 and $200,000.
“Mr. Augustus realizes what he has done is wrong,” Hipwell said outside Dick’s courtroom with Augustus standing at his side. “Today is his first step toward redemption.”
The plea agreement also hints that charges may be forthcoming against others.
Augustus, according to the agreement, created and used fraudulent documents to request and receive reimbursement from the state for official travel that did not occur.
He also created fraudulent documents reflecting that two DCFS employees — identified in the plea agreement only by their initials, C.P. and K.G. — had incurred expenses related to official travel.
“C.P. and K.G. would sign the fraudulent reimbursement requests as the requesting employees, and Augustus would sign as the approving supervisor. The state would pay the requested amount to C.P. and K.G., who would split the proceeds with Augustus,” the agreement states.
State Police detectives arrested Augustus in March after he admitted using his assistant’s department credit card to buy iPhone and iPad digital devices, DVDs, flat-screen TVs, MacBook computers and an automatic dishwasher he had delivered to his home.
He was booked March 19 into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on 38 counts of malfeasance in office, 38 counts of illegal possession of stolen things and one count of felony theft.
“This case is a great illustration of federal and state agencies successfully working together to root out public corruption,” Green said in a written statement.
Detectives do not consider Augustus’ assistant a suspect.