Posted on June 28, 2014 at 3:35 PM
BATON ROUGE -- The Louisiana Board of Ethics has filed charges against a former state health agency accountant arrested for the alleged theft of $1 million to reportedly feed her gambling addiction.
The charges against Deborah Crowder Loper were made public Friday on the board's website. No public action was taken in advance of the charges being filed.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1pJTwk9
) Loper faces an Aug. 5 trial date in state district court on theft, malfeasance in office and money laundering charges. She was arrested last June, accused of diverting the funds over a period of six years.
The Ethics Board said Loper violated state ethics law by receiving just over $1 million in Department of Health and Hospital funds "for her personal use, at a time in which she was not duly entitled, for the performance of the duties and responsibilities of her public job."
Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said the ethics board "felt she may have violated criminal provisions but also violated ethics provisions. It's a different statute, criminal and civil."
Allen said the ethics charge could bring a $10,000 fine per violation and a penalty of up to 1 1/2 times "the amount she received to her economic benefit."
The case has been forwarded to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board for hearing.
Loper was the manager of DHH's financial management section, which was responsible for depositing revenue, reconciling bank statements and completing federal and state financial reports.
DHH hosted the 2009 annual National Association of State Human Services Finance Officers conference with an account set up at Capitol One Bank. Only Loper and now DHH Undersecretary Jeff Reynolds were authorized on the bank account. Reynolds directed her to close the account at the conference's end, according to the ethics charges.
"Ms. Loper did not close the NASHSFO account and diverted DHH funds into the account for her personal use," the ethics board said. "Ms. Loper diverted over 167 checks issued to DHH totaling approximately $1,058,446 to the ... bank account for her personal use."
DHH fired Loper in March 2013. She had been employed by the department since April 2005.
The agency has since taken steps to limit employees dealing with checks in the wake of the Loper situation.