Ex-worker for St Tammany Public Defender's Officer arrested in theft case

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COVINGTON, Louisiana — A former employee of the St. Tammany Parish Public Defender's Office has been arrested on a felony theft charge.

Covington Police Chief Tim Lentz tells The New Orleans Advocate (http://bit.ly/13WMUdq ) 26-year-old Latoya Perkins, also known as Latoya Barnes, was arrested Monday. Perkins, of Franklinton, was the receptionist for the Public Defender's Office. It was unknown if she has an attorney.

Perkins' arrest comes on the same day that an independent audit noting a misappropriation of more than $8,000 at the office was made public by the Legislative Auditor's Office. The audit does not name the employee involved with the alleged misappropriation but notes the office was investigating a decrease in its probation revenue and discovered the theft. The audit says an employee had taken about $8,150 in fees.

Lentz said the arrest warrant was issued in July 2013 after the office, located in Covington, reported an internal theft. John Lindner, the chief public defender, said the office does monthly reports and the drop-off in revenue was noticeable.

Local revenue sources such as court fees, bond forfeitures, probation fees and application fees make up about 52 percent of the office's revenue, he said. The rest of the office's annual budget of about $2.5 million comes from the state.

The audit recommends that the office review its internal controls over those funds and take steps to strengthen them. Lindner said he has done so by moving the responsibility for collecting the money up the chain of command. Now, only the comptroller can collect those payments, he said.

"With the funding problems I have, I've got to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.


Information from: The New Orleans Advocate, http://www.neworleansadvocate.com

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