Prosecutors put value on state auditor’s fraud

Federal prosecutors have put the value of the fraud committed by now-former state Department of Children and Family Services auditing director Delrice Augustus at slightly more than $150,000.

Augustus, 34, of Baton Rouge, admitted last month in federal district court that he had stolen between $120,000 and $200,000 from the agency since 2010 by using an assistant’s state credit card to buy personal items and also misused a state travel card to buy hotel suites in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and the NBA All-Star Game.

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Thompson pegged the precise amount of Augustus’ fraud at $150,035.83 in a motion for entry of a preliminary order of forfeiture filed Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick, who presided over Augustus’ May 28 guilty plea to a charge of theft from a federally funded entity, granted the motion Wednesday and said the forfeiture order will become final when she sentences him.

Augustus, who resigned his state post May 23, faces up to 10 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set. He had been auditing director since mid-2009.

Two days after Augustus pleaded guilty, federal prosecutors accused a second state auditor — Kaneasha Goston, 38, of Baton Rouge — of stealing money from DCFS.

Augustus acknowledged last month that he created and used fraudulent documents to request and receive reimbursement from the state for official travel that did not occur. The documents, according to his written plea agreement, reflected that Goston and another unidentified DCFS employee had incurred official travel expenses.

Goston and the other worker would sign the fraudulent reimbursement requests as the requesting employees, and Augustus would sign as the approving supervisor. The state would pay the requested amount to Goston and the other employee, who would split the proceeds with Augustus, his plea agreement says.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Amundson told Dick last month that Augustus used an assistant’s state credit card to buy personal items for himself and others, including an installed dishwasher, televisions, movies, cameras, wireless audio systems, gaming devices, mobile devices and vacuums.

Detectives do not consider Augustus’ assistant a suspect.

Amundson also said Augustus misused state travel and gas cards to pay for personal travel and entertainment expenses for himself and others, including gas, rental vehicles and hotel stays.

State Police detectives arrested Augustus in March. He was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on 38 counts of malfeasance in office, 38 counts of illegal possession of stolen things and one count of felony theft.

U.S. Attorney Walt Green has said the federal and state probe is continuing. DCFS leadership has fully cooperated with the investigation, he added.