Former sheriff’s office secretary arrested for embezzlement
By Ken Childers
A former administrator/secretary for the Okfuskee County Sheriff’s Office has been arrested for allegedly embezzling more than $35,000 from the county jail’s inmate trust account.
Kenna Lavon Smith, 55, was arrested on July 23 and booked into the McIntosh County Jail on anticipated charges of embezzlement by a county employee. Bond was set at $50,000 and Okfuskee County Sheriff Jim Rasmussen said she was not jailed locally for her protection.
According to an affidavit, Smith abruptly left her post at the sheriff’s office on Monday, July 13, one day before Oklahoma State Auditors were expected to begin conducting an audit of the department. The financial ledger for fiscal year 2019-2020 was missing, raising a red flag for Rasmussen.
Rasmussen stated in the affidavit that shortly after he arrived at his office on the morning of July 13, he was informed that Smith had left the premises. “I thought nothing of it at the time, as I assumed she had left to pick up breakfast or doughnuts as she sometimes did,” Rasmussen said. “As the morning progressed and Smith did not return to work, I attempted to call her and text her without an answer.”
According to Rasmussen, he asked other employees to try and contact Smith, but none of their calls were returned. The office’s other secretary discovered that all of Smith’s personal belongings were missing and a cabinet which was normally locked was found unlocked and Smith’s work keys were left in the drawer. Rasmussen said Smith was aware of the pending audit, which was scheduled to get underway on July 14.
Rasmussen contacted the state auditor’s office and apprised them of the situation. “I told them that Smith had been going through marital problems and the rumor had been she was looking for another job and planning to move in with her daughter in Edmond, but I was stunned that she would leave without notice,” Rasmussen stated in the affidavit.
The auditors suggested that Rasmussen acquire the inmate trust account bank statement for June 2020, the last month of the fiscal year, to determine if any criminal activity had occurred, given the absence of the ledger.
According to the affidavit, a review of the June 2020 inmate trust bank statement revealed that the only deposits made were from the internet-based telephone system and no cash deposits had been made by Smith during June.
Inmate phone and commissary services are provided to the jail by Prodigy Solutions, and there is a kiosk in the booking area where prisoners personally feed money into it during the booking process. The kiosk counts the money and automatically credits the inmate’s account. There is an additional kiosk in the jail’s lobby so that friends and family can place money on an inmate’s account.
One of Smith’s duties was to remove money from both kiosks in the presence of another person and conduct a two-person count of the money, then deposit the funds into the inmate trust account at BancFirst. Removal of money from the kiosks requires a password to Prodigy’s fund manager system as well as keys to the kiosks, and software tracks who is logged in when money is removed, according to Rasmussen. A review of the automated ledger produced by Prodigy showed that Smith had withdrawn $6,207.87 in June.
The auditors encouraged Rasmussen to obtain bank statements and Prodigy ledgers from December 2019 through July 2020, which covers the time period in which the jail began using the Prodigy system and the last time Smith had access to the kiosks.
An initial review of the documents revealed that 71 kiosk withdrawals were made between December 2019 and July 21, but only 13 deposits had been made to the inmate trust account during that time. The auditors estimated that $35,387.64 had been collected from the kiosks by Smith but not deposited. According to Rasmussen, no inmates were victimized and the missing funds were commissary profits.
A probable cause affidavit for Smith’s arrest was issued on July 23 and she was arrested later that day. According to Rasmussen, Smith admitted to the embezzlement. As of Monday, she remained in the McIntosh County Jail and had not posted bond.
Smith began working for Okfuskee County in August 2018. She previously worked for the Golden Pony Casino, serving four years as marketing director then as a compliance officer. She also worked previously for the Okmulgee County Sheriff’s Department.