JACKSON — The Mississippi auditor is demanding that two former community college employees repay nearly $1 million to the state. Most of that is for public money the auditor says was misspent from January 2013 to September 2017 on personal items, including shoes, watches and a chandelier.
Auditor Shad White on Monday announced the demand against Gwendolyn Jefferson and Stacie Neal, who had jobs paying bills for Coahoma Community College in Clarksdale. Investigators from the auditor’s office said they believe the women created false documents to hide improper purchases, many of which were made online.
Jefferson and Neal have not been arrested or charged, and White said he did not know whether either is represented by an attorney. A message left at a phone number listed for Jefferson was not immediately returned, and The Associated Press could not find a number for Neal.
White said he gave investigative documents to a district attorney who will decide whether to seek criminal charges.
These are the largest individual demands the auditor’s office has issued in the past five years.
Letters from the auditor’s office to the two women say a total of $758,864 was embezzled on personal purchases made with the college’s credit cards. The demand includes $194,551 for interest and $28,185 is for investigative costs.
White said his office issued the same demand to each woman because, “it was difficult to determine which of them was responsible for how much” of the alleged misspending.
“This was a conspiracy, and these two women were watching each other’s back,” White said.
White said the auditor’s office began an investigation in September 2017 after receiving a tip from Coahoma Community College about possible misspending.
“The college was very helpful,” said White, who became auditor in July after his predecessor Stacey Pickering took a job leading the state veterans affairs board.