published Monday, August 26th, 2013

Ex-Cumberland County services officer stole donations for veterans, audit says

The state Comptroller's office today issued a report slamming a former Cumberland County veterans service officer who auditors say used at least $134,000 for his personal gain over a period of three years, even diverting donations to his own bank account.

According to a release from the Comptroller's office, veterans service officer Mark A. Daniels created a separate bank account in the name of the organization prior to the transition and maintained that bank account, independent of county control, in the years following the transition up until his termination last year.

The audit looked at the period between July 1, 2009 and Sept. 30, 2012.

Some of the methods Daniels used to convert funds to his own use included writing checks from the account to himself and his wife, issuing checks to vendors and citizens from the account that appeared to have been used to get cash rather than help veterans, cash withdrawals, withholding cash donations that should have been deposited, depositing checks from private citizens and veterans organizations into his personal bank account and using the office bank account debit card for personal purchases.

The total amount involved is $134,244.58.

The report states that Daniels repaid some of the missing funds, but the investigation showed there was still an unpaid shortage of more than $112,000 on Sept. 30, 2012.

Daniels was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and later fired. He was indicted by the Cumberland County grand jury on theft charges last fall.

State officials say government officials in Cumberland County have put in place "a number of changes that are intended to prevent similar problems from recurring in the future," the report states.

"This type of abuse of the public trust — systematic and long-running — cannot be tolerated," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson states in the report. "It is shameful that public funds intended to help the brave men and women who have served our country so honorably would be diverted from their intended purpose."

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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