Audit finds irregularities over RICO money - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Audit finds irregularities over RICO money

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Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 6:01 pm | Updated: 2:25 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

A state audit has found problems with the way the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and County Attorney's Office use and account for money that has been seized from crooks.

Both offices agreed to improve their oversight and use of the money, which comes from the Anti-Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO.

The findings came from a financial audit of all of Maricopa County by the state Office of the Auditor General.

The problems the audit found with the sheriff and county attorney offices "are not significant deficiencies as defined by U.S. generally accepted auditing standards and Government Auditing Standards," the 48-page report states.

The money that police departments seize from criminals can be used for certain law-enforcement activities, including training, community policing and any operations that lead to further RICO seizures.

The audit found that the sheriff's office didn't comply with county travel policies when using RICO money for travel and didn't always properly document the justification for its use.

For example, employees stayed at the most expensive hotel for a conference when more affordable ones were available.

The travel documentation did not always include adequate information to justify use of the RICO funds, but auditors were able to determine they were allowable.

Loretta Barkell, MCSO director of Business Operations Command, wrote to auditors that the sheriff's office has put controls in place to review travel expenses weekly and provide adequate documentation in each travel file.

Arizona law requires that the RICO funds be maintained by the county attorney or state attorney general.

The audit found that the county attorney's office didn't always follow its policies for ensuring that police agencies submitted the proper RICO paperwork on time or properly monitored the programs funded with RICO money.

The county attorney said in a letter to auditors that it would be more vigilant in reminding police agencies to turn in their paperwork on time.

RICO funds can be given to nonprofit organizations to administer gang- and substance-abuse prevention and education programs, but paperwork submitted by the organizations to the county attorney did not always have enough information to tell whether that mission was being accomplished.

The county attorney's office said it would beef up its application process to get the information.

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