Former secretary embezzlement scheme caught by accounts payable audit

The ex-administrative secretary of the Morgan County Soil Conservation District in Tennessee has been arrested on embezzlement charges regarding more than $50,000 of the organization's funds.

Sharlene Justice allegedly used various techniques to embezzle money, including check-kiting, incorrect bookkeeping entries and forging the board chairman's signature. The accounts payable audit by the State of Tennessee Comptroller also found that Justice wrote checks to her family members and herself.

The audit report alleges that the illegal activities might have been discovered sooner had the district's board of directors provided sufficient oversight. Justice was in charge of all financial transactions for the organization and rarely had her work double-checked by the board or other employees.

"Internal controls are basically a set of checks and balances that help make sure that public dollars aren't subject to fraud, waste or abuse," said comptroller Justin Wilson. "As this case clearly illustrates, there can be consequences for governments that don't have good internal controls."

A portion of the stolen funds has been deposited, while the bank returned a forged check that Justice wrote because of insufficient funds, which will reduce the total amount owed, the report explained. 

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