Two former city employees on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were indicted Friday after being accused of stealing water fines.
Lakeshia Benton and Kenya Bowens were each indicted and arrested on a single count of embezzlement. Each remained jailed Friday, with no bail immediately set. It was unclear if either woman had a lawyer to speak for her.
State Auditor Shad White said the 40-year-old Bowens stole $11,840, while 38-year-old Benton stole $1,913. The two would collect cash payments from people paying water bill fines, and then void the receipts, White said, meeting later to split the money. The Republican auditor said a supervisor noticed the high number of voided transactions. The indictment alleges the embezzlement took place during parts of 2015 and 2016.
"This case is another example of how conspiracies, where two or more people work together to conceal a crime, can be difficult to catch and can result in big losses for taxpayers," White said in a statement, urging governments to have multiple people overseeing money being collected.
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White issued letters demanding that Bowens pay $26,350 and Benton pay $4,219. That would cover losses, plus interest and investigation costs.
If either doesn't pay within 30 days, White said he will file a civil suit. Both women were covered by $50,000 surety bonds, meaning the insurer could pay back the lost money.
Each woman faces up to 20 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines if convicted.