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Audit reveals Breathitt scam

A former bookkeeper for the Breathitt County sheriff's office, who already has been charged with theft, falsified records so she could cash checks made out to vendors and pocket the money, according to a state audit.

The audit also found that the sheriff wasn't requiring the bookkeeper to file timecards, that the office provided inaccurate W-2 forms for its employees, and that the sheriff allowed $6,100 in cash advances to be paid to himself and his employees. Some of the cash advances have been repaid.

The former employee, Kimberly Carpenter, stopped working in the sheriff's office on July 28, 2008, when she was injured and had to take medical leave, said assistant administrator Crystal Southwood. In April, audits of the office's 2007 finances showed that Carpenter and Sheriff Ray Clemons were overpaid by $15,496. Clemons paid back the $5,670 he owed, but Carpenter did not and was arrested in May.

The new audit shows that Carpenter was overpaid by $2,773 for the seven months she worked in 2008. Also, she altered two checks the sheriff signed over to pay the office's federal tax withholdings and to pay a computer vendor with an attached invoice, the state Auditor of Public Accounts office said in a news release. After the sheriff signed the checks, the auditor's office said, Carpenter made them payable to herself and cashed them. In the case of the computer vendor, the auditor's office found that the invoice had been faked, too, and the vendor wasn't owed money.

In both cases, Carpenter altered the deposit ledgers to show that the money had gone to the proper place, the audit found.

"The sheriff is absolutely going to make sure that the charges are going to be pressed to the fullest extent," Southwood said.

In his responses to the charges contained in the auditor's report, Clemons said changes have been made to prevent future problems.

"The sheriff is working closely with the new bookkeeper more frequently," Clemons wrote. "The assistant tax collector works very closely with the bookkeeper. They have a very good system of checking each other's work. The new bookkeeper has made many changes in the organization of the office, therefore, improving filing and record-keeping duties."

The new bookkeeper, Irene Macintosh, worked for the county health department for 25 years and owns an ambulance service, Southwood said.

Carpenter is free on bond, and Kentucky State Police and the state attorney general's office are continuing the investigation, said Detective Dean Craft of the Hazard state police post. He said police are working with special prosecutor Commonwealth's Attorney Edison Banks from Letcher County.

In 1997, Clemons was convicted of a federal charge of failure to report marijuana trafficking by his daughter and son-in-law. Clemons resigned, was later pardoned by then-Gov. Paul Patton, and was re-elected in 2002. Crystal Southwood and her husband, Michael, were convicted in 1997 of conspiracy to distribute marijuana.

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