Independence workers arrested for credit card abuse

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wwltv.com

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 6:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Apr 2 at 6:42 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

INDEPENDENCE, La. -- Four city workers from Independence are out of jail Tuesday following their arrests for allegedly misusing town gas cards.

Eyewitness News first told you about the investigation into the suspected abuse three weeks ago.

The results of a month of watching the activity of the gas cards were laid out in an arrest report for Reginald Jefferson, Charles Garafola, Jeffers Cook and John Henson Tuesday.

The complaint details evidence of employees filling up personal vehicles, unknown vehicles, and in some cases an unknown person using the city card to fill up. That evidence is what the police department says led to multiple counts of unauthorized use of access card as theft charges for all four.

"I think it was the right thing to do, doesn't mean it was the easy thing to do. We work with these guys on a daily basis, but we have a job to do and we're going to do it to the best of our ability," said Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards III.

In addition to Tuesday’s arrests, changes have been made at City Hall. Credit cards are no longer in use and any expenses have to be approved through purchase orders.

Yet still, city officials are torn about this situation. Mayor Mike Ragusa wouldn’t go on camera, but said he believes if someone does something wrong, they should be held accountable. However, he doesn’t think this case was handled the right way.

Councilman Calvin Batiste approves of the outcome.

"People shouldn't look at the small amount of monies involved, but the mere fact that these individuals misused the town credit cards and other things that belong to the town,” he said, “I think it's going to open a lot of city's eyes up that they need to pay close attention to these type of transactions."

Many residents were also on the fence about the issue, but it’s an argument that will now take place in court.

The charges are all misdemeanors and are punishable with fines, probation and/or jail time. A fifth employee involved in the investigation was suspended from his position with the city.

 

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