State audit identifies missing funds
$7,700 missing from Sheriff’s Department Civil Division
The Lake County Sheriff ’s Department says what happened to more than $7,700 that went missing from one of its divisions in 2017 can’t be determined.
The missing $7,761.24 from the Sheriff ’s Department Civil Division was flagged in a state audit, but the department said an internal investigation could not determine where the money went. The Indiana State Board of Accounts released an audit of Lake County that found the Sheriff ’s Department Civil Division failed to report “misappropriation (theft) of public funds,” according to the document.
Lake County Chief William Paterson said the department can’t can’t account for the money.
“We don’t know what happened,” Paterson said. “We don’t know if it was misappropriation.”
The audit found four deposits, totaling $7,761.24, from June 29, 2017, to July 14, 2017, that were never deposited in the bank.
The reported misappropriation would have happened under the administration of former Sheriff John Buncich, who was convicted of bribery and wire fraud in August 2017 and is currently serving a morethan-15-year term in federal prison.
Deposits in the division were
not regularly deposited, Paterson said, and the money had been left in a desk drawer.
Paterson said the department did an internal investigation but the amount of time that had lapsed and amount of access that had formerly been allowed in that area made it difficult. Paterson said anyone in the department could walk through the area, and there were no cameras and no way to identify what happened.
“There was no way to pin down when it was taken or by whom,” Paterson said.
Aside from pointing out the missing funds, the state took issue with the department’s failure to report the missing deposits.
The State Board of Accounts said Indiana law requires that any public officer who suspects misappropriation of funds should notify the state and prosecuting attorney.
“Due to poor internal controls, it could not be determined who was responsible for the receipts and related collections,” the audit said. “At the time of the missing deposits, bank reconciliations were not performed timely, nor was a proper system of oversight or review in place.”
Paterson said the department was not aware of the State Board of Accounts requirement, but when it was brought up, it was properly reported.
“They were made aware of it,” Paterson said.
In April 2018, the Civil Division did an internal investigation into the funds, according to the audit, and provided it to a field examiner in June 2018.
The department has already taken steps to prevent future incidents, Paterson said.
“There will be no point in time where cash is left unattended,” he said.
Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. said, in a letter to the state, that an accounting firm discovered the missing deposits, and an internal investigation started.
“However, the staff in the Civil Division failed to timely notify the SBA of the incident,” Martinez said in the letter.
Since the incident was discovered, Martinez said the department has started training employees to report any misappropriation of funds, has improved security in the division’s offices, segregated job duties for employees handling cash and increased oversight of accounts.
Paterson said the point of the audit is to identify problems and what must be done to correct any issues. He said the department has taken that criticism and is making improvements.
“I think the process is working,” Paterson said. “