Former Meigs County Volunteer Energy Cooperative accountant accused of stealing nearly $1 million

Former Meigs County Volunteer Energy Cooperative accountant accused of stealing nearly $1 million

November 28th, 2018 by Andy Sher in Breaking News

In this 2011 file photo, Comptroller Justin Wilson, left, attends a meeting of the State Funding Board in Nashville, Tenn.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE — A former accountant for Decatur, Tennessee-based Volunteer Energy Cooperative has been indicted on charges he stole nearly $1 million from the rural electric cooperative that distributes power to all or parts of 17 counties.

Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson's office today announced the indictment of Jason Kittle by the Meigs County Grand Jury this month on a charge of theft over $25,000.

The Comptroller's Office and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation initiated their investigation at the request of District Attorney General Russell Johnson of the Ninth Judicial District after Volunteer Energy Cooperative officials reported questionable transactions in VEC bank records.

The nonprofit VEC serves more than 115,900 customers in Tennessee with more than 10,000 miles of power lines stretching from Georgia to the Kentucky border.

According to the investigation, Kittle allegedly stole at least $994,981 between June 2011 and December 2017.

While it's "one of the largest thefts we've investigated," Wilson said, "the weaknesses that allowed this activity to occur are not unusual. 

"Financial responsibilities must be separated between multiple individuals, so that one person isn't recording financial information and reconciling bank statements without oversight," Wilson said.

The comptroller's office says Kittle used three "schemes" to steal funds for his personal use. 

According to the comptroller's office, Kittle over a 6 1/2-year period allegedly stole $735,318 by making 242 transfers from a VEC account to his personal bank account.

Another $229,293 was allegedly stolen by making 204 payments to his personal credit card account, according to the comptroller's office.

And Kittle allegedly stole another $30,368 by making 48 payments to a credit card account in the name of a family member.

Kittle was able to his conceal his misappropriation by recording the fraudulent transactions in VEC's accounting system as online payment fees, returns, or similar transactions, according to auditors.

Kittle also managed and reconciled the statements of the VEC bank account, which allowed the theft to remain undetected for years.

According to Wilson, Kittle admitted to VEC officials that payments were made to his personal credit card account from the VEC bank account. He was fired on Jan. 2, 2018.

Created in the 1930s, VEC has its corporate office in Decatur and serves its members through nine customer service centers in Benton, Cleveland, Georgetown, Decatur, Spring City, Crossville, Monterey, Jamestown and Byrdstown.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter at @AndySher1.