Crime

Harrison County tax collector’s deputy faces felony fraud charges

A crime both small and big businesses are victims of: embezzlement

Ever wonder what embezzlement is? This white collar crime is hurting businesses all over.
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Ever wonder what embezzlement is? This white collar crime is hurting businesses all over.

A Harrison County grand jury has indicted the chief deputy in the tax collector’s office on four charges of submitting false travel expenses to defraud the government.

Denise Renee Gill, 53, has worked for the tax collector’s office for 34 years and has worked for the current tax collector, David LaRosa, for 20 years.

“I don’t really understand it,” LaRosa said. “It makes no sense to me.”

The indictment says Gill was reimbursed based on false travel vouchers that she submitted to the Board of Supervisors from May 2017 to June 2018. She was reimbursed more than $3,000 on the travel expenses.

Special agents from the State Auditor’s Office arrested Gill on Monday. She was booked into the Harrison County jail and held on a $20,000 bond set by Judge Roger Clark.

If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison and $40,000 in fines.

State Auditor Shad White also is demanding that Gill repay $19,821.50, which includes interest, investigative fees and the portion of her salary that exceeded LaRosa’s annual pay of $103,000.

State law says a deputy tax collector’s pay can’t exceed the tax collector’s salary, the auditor’s news release says. Gill’s salary was set lower than LaRosa’s but exceeded his by more than a total of $11,000 for 2016 and 2017 because of overtime she was paid, the auditor’s news release says.

The auditor’s office broke down the amounts Gill owes in a demand letter sent to her:

$3,254.89 in false mileage reimbursements

$11,391.66 in salary

$256.11 for interest on mileage reimbursements

$1,663.95 for interest on excessive salary

$3,254.89 in recovery costs

Anita Lee is a Mississippi native who specializes in investigative, court and government reporting. She has covered South Mississippi’s biggest stories in her decades at the Sun Herald, including the Dixie Mafia, public corruption and Hurricane Katrina, a Pulitzer Prize-winning effort. Nothing upsets her more than government secrecy and seeing people suffer.
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