Two employees at the state’s Office of Motor Vehicles allegedly stole more than $200,000 over three years in customer payments before being arrested and fired, according to a new audit of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.
Heather Prather and Angelle Temple were both arrested in early 2015 on counts of felony theft, injuring public records and malfeasance in office.
While those criminal cases are still unresolved, they have prompted OMV officials to try to place more controls on cash payments to the agency’s offices, blocking employees from pocketing cash.
Prather and Temple misappropriated at least $211,459 before being arrested, according to the audit, which did not specify how much was allegedly taken by each woman. The review concluded that they provided receipts to customers but then either changed, voided or did not post the transactions.
“Upon investigation, OMV management determined that the OMV employees had diverted public funds for personal use and violated state laws,” states the audit by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office.
This is the second year in a row that the legislative auditor has reported OMV employees misusing funds. The auditor recommended that the OMV change its cash handling procedures and increase oversight of its employees.
The auditor also said the OMV should ask the women to pay the office back.
Jill Boudreaux, the undersecretary for the Department of Public Safety, which oversees OMV, initially wrote to the auditor that the office would consider no longer accepting cash as a safeguard to prevent employees from stealing.
But she and the Auditor’s Office have since agreed that the OMV’s office simply needs better controls over accepting cash, rather than doing away with handling currency, according to State Police spokesman Maj. Doug Cain.
“That’s our goal: to provide the convenience to the customer, but making sure we do our due diligence to have accountability in the process,” Cain said.
The two women accused of stealing the money may go to court sometime in the new year.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said Monday that Prather, of Baker, has not been charged. Cain said the OMV is working with Louisiana State Police on an internal audit to get a better sense of how much money they believe Prather stole. Moore said his office is waiting for the results of that investigation before it moves forward.
State Police arrested Prather, then 35, in February. OMV employees called law enforcement after they reviewed records and noticed more than $4,000 was missing. Cain said Monday that it now appears that Prather stole more than $4,000.
A State Police report indicates Prather admitted to investigators she had “systematically stolen cash” from the agency over several months.
Reached by phone on Monday, Prather declined to comment.
Temple, of Marksville, could go to court in two separate parishes. She has racked up counts related to stealing from the OMV in both Avoyelles and Rapides parishes.
State Police arrested her in March, when she was 34 years old.
Charles Riddle III, the Avoyelles Parish district attorney, said Tuesday that Temple has been indicted by a grand jury there on charges of theft, filing false public records and malfeasance in office.
She has pleaded not guilty and her trial is set for March 1, Riddle said.
An official with the Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office said Monday that Temple in that jurisdiction faces one count of theft for between $750 and $5,000, 33 counts of injuring public funds and 30 counts of malfeasance in public office.
Temple could not be reached on Monday.
Advocate staff writer Bryn Stole contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: The story above was changed Dec. 29, 2015, to show that Angelle Temple has been indicted by a grand jury. She was charged with theft, filing false public records and malfeasance in office.” She has pleaded not guilty and her trial is set for March 1.