California state workers committed bribery, mail fraud, auditor says


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Nine investigations by the state auditor have resulted in state workers being convicted of bribery and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and other government employees were found to have been overpaid by tens of thousands of dollars.

The misconduct was detailed in State Auditor Elaine Howle’s annual report on whistleblower investigations launched by her office. In the biggest case, one employee each of the state Franchise Tax Board and Office of the Secretary of State in Los Angeles engaged in a scheme that enabled a courier service owner to steal nearly $250,000 from the state, the report said. The employees were in a position to issue letters or certificates that let businesses know whether they were in good standing with the agencies but were supposed to charge a $20 processing fee for each one.


‘To avoid paying this fee, the courier paid $300 to $400 a week to Employee 1 to supply him with letters for his clients,’ the audit found. The two employees and courier were convicted of bribery and ordered to pay $227,000 in restitution to the state. Five other state employees were disciplined for knowing about the scheme but not reporting it.

In other cases turned up by auditors:

--A former accounting technician for the state Employment Development Department and two accomplices were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud for a scheme that fraudulently redirected nearly $93,000 of unemployment insurance benefits to the two accomplices.

--The State Athletic Commission overpaid nearly $118,700 to 18 employees for two years because it inappropriately paid them an overtime rate rather than a straight-time rate for their work.

--A Fish and Game Department supervisor improperly directed the use of state funds to purchase more than $53,800 in goods and services not required by a lease and he also used $5,000 in gift cards but could not demonstrate that the purchases made were used for a state purpose.

--The California Correctional Health Care Services improperly paid a total of 23 employees $55,000 in travel benefits after a manager allowed them to receive reimbursements for their commutes and for expenses incurred near their homes and headquarters.

--An official in the office of the president at the University of California wasted $2,700 on improper travel including unnecessary expenses incurred during a five-day trip to England to attend board meetings for a nonprofit group that specializes in the development and adoption of software standards for educational institutions.

--An employee at the California Department of Education misused state time and equipment when he posted nearly 4,900 comments on The Sacramento Bee’s news Web site during state time.


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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento