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Audit: Money stolen from New Mexico inmates’ accounts

ALBUQUERQUE – An independent audit has found that more than $15,000 was stolen from inmates’ accounts at the Bernalillo County jail over a four-year period.

The forensic audit recently made public by the state auditor’s office alleges that a former fiscal supervisor at the jail tapped into inmate trust accounts to issue fraudulent debit cards. The account is used for commissary and phone card transactions.

State Auditor Brian Colón said in a statement there was a breakdown of internal controls that resulted in possible embezzlement and fraud.

“Incarcerated individuals have families and friends who contribute to these funds. Theft is theft. This is not a victimless crime,” he said.

Officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Albuquerque said the money has been returned to inmates’ accounts and that a criminal investigation by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is ongoing.

The audit says the former supervisor, who was not identified in the document, was put on administrative leave in February 2019 when the allegations first surfaced.

When inmates are released, the remaining money in their account usually is loaded onto a debit card and given to them, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

According to the audit, many of the fraudulent debit cards were issued over a year after an inmate’s release, processed on the supervisor’s computer under different employee logins and used at grocery stores and gas stations.

Jail officials were tipped off in 2019 when a former inmate called about money missing from the account. Officials found 64 fraudulent debit cards had been issued and spent since September 2018 for a total of $9,453, according to the audit. Investigators later identified an additional 36 fraudulent cards totaling $6,213.