September 12, 2016

Auditor finds likely embezzlement from fund for those with disabilities

State Auditor Tim Keller announced Monday his office found what appears to be embezzlement of nearly $20,000 in public funds meant to go toward paying people with disabilities for training classes.

State Auditor Tim Keller

State Auditor Tim Keller

The Office of the State Auditor announced Monday in a press release that it found $18,225 in public funds went to the personal bank accounts belonging to the former program director of the Center for Self-Advocacy. The Center for Self-Advocacy is part of the New Mexico Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (DDPC), a public entity.

Those with disabilities in the Center for Self-Advocacy program, called advocates, receive a $25 stipend to attend the training classes.

The state auditor’s investigation found the “Program Director created false DDPC advocate invoices for classes not attended by the advocates.” These payments did not go to the advocates; instead, they went to the former program director’s bank account.

An internet archive of the DDPC’s website lists Joseph Calloway as project director at the time of the alleged embezzlement. Calloway’s email address is still listed as the point of contact on the Center for Self-Advocacy’s Facebook page.

Calloway no longer works for state government.

The auditor referred the case to the Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg for possible prosecution for possible felony embezzlement.

“People with developmental disabilities and their families depend on the Development [sic] Disabilities Planning Council for vital services to improve quality of life,” Keller said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that any staff would apparently steal money from the disability programs they are charged with administrating. We appreciate the Council for bringing these concerns forward and for working to address oversight issues that came to light.”

The auditor’s office reviewed 468 checks from the DDPC after officials with the public entity approached Keller’s office with concerns over the Center for Self-Advocacy training payments. The auditor’s report found 208 of those 468 checks  went to the former director’s personal bank accounts.

The risk review from the OSA says DDPC found out about the allegations from “an outside source” that a tax form was incorrect.

The state auditor also found several “internal control issues” with how the Center for Self-Advocacy ran the program. One was that the Center for Self-Advocacy Program Director can sign for advocates whose handwriting is illegible, but also counts the sign-in sheets for the advocates, submits the invoice for the advocate and distributes the funds to the advocate.

“This lack of segregation of duties created an environment susceptible to the theft of funds,” the report reads.

Also, the finance department “did not verify monthly invoices with class sign-in sheets” according to the report