Audit director accused of improper use of state credit card

Updated at 7:02 p.m. — The head of a state agency said it is researching whether its audit director engaged in a broader pattern of abuse after the auditor was arrested Wednesday, admitting he used a department credit card to buy more than $25,000 in personal items over a two-year period.

The secretary of the state Department of Child and Family Services, Suzy Sonnier, said the audit director, because of the nature of his position, “had probably the most knowledge and ability to work around the system or to use unfair influence with others related to those purchases.”

Sonnier said the accounting firm of Postlethwaite & Netterville has been asked to perform a department-wide audit of all security protocols following the arrest of Delrice Jermaine Augustus, 34, head of the department’s Audit Bureau.

State Police detectives arrested Augustus after he admitted to using his assistant’s LaCarte Purchasing card to buy more than $25,000 in DVDs, iPhones, iPads, flat-screen TVs, MacBook computers and an automatic dishwasher he had delivered to his home, State Police said Wednesday.

According to an arrest warrant, Augustus made the fraudulent purchases between January 2012 and December 2013.

The LaCarte Purchasing card is a type of credit card some state agencies use for business-related expenses. The money comes from the departments’ operating budgets.

Sonnier said both Augustus and his assistant have been placed on paid administrative leave and are prohibited from entering the building or accessing their computers.

She said agency officials are exploring their options since the audit director’s arrest but would not say if they were moving to fire Augustus.

Augustus had been audit director since July 2009. Sonnier said he had a banking background prior to his hiring.

The investigation began Monday after two gift cards purchased with the LaCarte card raised red flags because officials in the audit bureau would not normally purchase gift cards, Sonnier said.

On Tuesday, Department of Child and Family Services officials began pulling the financial records and noticed several questionable purchases, prompting them to contact State Police and the Office of the Inspector General.

Authorities picked up Augustus and his assistant, who has not been named by officials, and questioned them, State Police Trooper 1st Class Jared Sandifer said.

Augustus acknowledged during questioning he used the card to make the improper purchases and admitted he knew what he was doing was illegal, Sandifer said.

“LDCFS policy requires that LaCarte Card purchases be approved by an employee’s immediate supervisor,” a State Police investigator wrote in the arrest warrant for Augustus. “This scheme allowed Augustus to make and approve the purchases without approval by his immediate supervisor.”

Sandifer said detectives do not consider the assistant a suspect.

Detectives booked Augustus, 11982 Comal Ave., Baton Rouge, into Parish Prison on 38 counts of malfeasance in office, 38 counts of illegal possession of stolen things and one count of felony theft.

Inspector General Stephen Street said Augustus’s job as audit director is what makes the case particularly shocking.

“I’ve seen people in positions of high trust get busted before, but this is the first time since I’ve been IG that an audit director got arrested like this,” Street said.