Inside Report: Foxes helped guard hens at agency

Recent guilty pleas from three former state Department of Children and Family Services’ auditors to federal program fraud charges are an unfortunate but classic example of the fox, or in this case foxes, guarding the henhouse.

The henhouse: DCFS, which receives annual federal funding and is responsible for administering statewide child welfare programs, economic stability programs and child-support enforcement services.

Fox No. 1: Delrice Jermaine Augustus, who was director of DCFS’s Bureau of Audit and Compliance Services from July 2009 until his resignation May 23 — five days before his guilty plea.

The Audit Bureau is responsible for safeguarding assets against theft and unauthorized use; making sure transactions are properly authorized and recorded; and ensuring compliance with management policies, as well as federal and state laws and regulations.

Augustus, 34, of Baton Rouge, reported directly to the head of DCFS and oversaw some 20 employees, including audit managers and line auditors.

He admitted stealing from DCFS, from 2010 until March, by fraudulently using an assistant’s state credit card to buy personal items for himself and others. The items included an installed dishwasher; movies; televisions; mobile devices such as iPads, Kindle Fires and iPhone 5; cameras; gaming devices such as Xboxes, Wii and Leapsters; wireless audio systems; and Dyson vacuums.

By using a subordinate’s credit card, “Augustus eliminated oversight since Augustus, as the subordinate’s supervisor, reviewed and approved charges on the subordinate’s card,” his plea agreement reads.

Augustus also misused a state travel card to buy hotel suites in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and the NBA All-Star Game.

“Augustus would cause the signature of the (DCFS) Secretary to appear on his fraudulent reimbursement claims as approving such claims, when, in fact, the Secretary had neither approved the claims nor authorized her signature to be used in such a manner,” the agreement states.

Federal prosecutors have calculated the value of Augustus’ fraud at more than $150,000.

Fox No. 2: Corey S. Polk, who was a managing auditor within the Special Investigations and External Audit Unit of the Audit Bureau. He reported directly to Augustus and was responsible for handing special probes, including those involving allegations of fraud and theft by employees

Polk’s plea agreement says he and Augustus used state purchase cards to pay thousands of dollars for suites at the Jelly Roll Suites hotel in New Orleans. Polk pleaded guilty June 24.

“The rooms were used for personal purposes, not official purposes,” Polk’s agreement says. “For example, Polk used the rooms during Mardi Gras and on weekends for personal use.”

Polk, 33, of Baton Rouge, and Augustus also used fraudulent documents to request and receive more than $27,500 from the state for official travel that didn’t occur, the agreement states. Polk and Augustus would split the illegal proceeds.

Fox No. 3: Kaneasha Goston, who was an Audit Bureau staff member who reported directly to Augustus. She and Augustus likewise used fraudulent documents to seek and obtain more than $10,000 from the state for official travel that never took place.

Goston, 38, of Baton Rouge, also split the money with Augustus. She pleaded guilty June 19.

Augustus, Polk and Goston could be headed from the henhouse to the jailhouse. Each faces up to 10 years in federal prison, fines and restitution to the state.

Joe Gyan Jr. covers courts for The Advocate. He can be reached at jgyan@theadvocate.com.