11/03/2017 / By Bridgette Wilcox
Taxpayers from the city of Gainesville, Florida may have inadvertently paid for a Brazilian butt lift, after a former city employee allegedly stole from city coffers and used part of the amount to pay for the cosmetic procedure, as well as other lavish expenses.
An investigative report conducted by city auditor Carlos Holt revealed that 33-year old Natwaina Clark, allegedly stole a total of $93,000 from city funds between November 2015 to March 2017, Gainseville.com said. Clark, who worked as a city staff specialist, was reported to have used her city-issued credit card for unauthorized charges amounting to $61,000. She was also said to have swiped her bosses’ cards for $31,000, and a coworker’s card for $900.
The report included documents that detailed Clark’s purchases using the money she directed into her personal PayPal account. $8,500 of the total amount was used for a Brazilian butt lift. Meanwhile, other transactions included a television set, cable TV, CVS purchases, food, and her personal SunPass account.
Clark, whose position earned her $33,500 a year, explained her lavish lifestyle by saying her purchases were paid for by a generous boyfriend — even sending herself an expensive bouquet to corroborate her story. She was sacked from her position in late March while she was on a cruise. She was then arrested and served with felony charges.
Before her Gainesville city stint, Clark had worked in human resources at a supply store, during which she was charged with seven felonies for selling her colleagues’ banking and personal information to third parties.
Holt said that the city’s human resources department should be held accountable for failing to carry out the city’s screening process for employees, and not alerting the hiring department about Clark’s criminal history.
Holt added that the department heads at the city’s parks, recreation, and cultural affairs (PRCA) department are also at fault because they enabled Clark to misspend city funds. The report said the heads were negligent for allowing Clark to access their cards and not questioning purchases or reviewing expense reports for over a year.
While the extent of Clark’s theft is certainly extreme, city employees taking money from public funds is more common than one might expect.
In Jackson, Michigan, employee Sheila Prater, embezzled a total of $28,884 from June 2015 to September 2016, a report on MLive.com said. She worked for the city for 23 years, climbing up the ranks to become a records management supervisor in the Neighborhood and Economic Operations department, which was her last post before she left to join a different company. While the amount Prater stole warranted felony charges, she was only charged with a misdemeanor, and will be asked to pay an interest on the stolen amount, as well as serve probation and undergo counseling.
Meanwhile in Fort Lauderdale also in Florida, employee Joseph Arena was arrested for using a city-issued card to buy tools and equipment that he resold for profit. Arena, who worked for Fort Lauderdale’s Public Works Department, was charged with 27 counts of theft, misconduct, and dealing in stolen property, according to a report on MiamiHerald.com.
Perhaps the most high profile case of this nature is that involving Rita Crundwell, who stole a whopping $53.7 million from the city of Dixon, Illinois over a period of two decades. Crundwell, who was Dixon’s long-time comptroller and treasurer, was found to have used the money to fund her champion horse breeding operation. She was also found to have bought jewelry, clothes, a custom motor coach, boats, luxury cars, and property using the embezzled money, ChicagoMag.com reported.
Crundwell was arrested in 2012 and sentenced in 2013. She is currently being held at a correctional institution in Minnesota, with a release scheduled for March 2030.
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