CRIME AGAINST THE ENVIRONMENT

A Miami-Dade County inspector general (IG) draft audit has found the county’s police force misrepresented the need for public dollars and spent nearly US $6 million of funds earmarked for combating environmental crime, according to a recent article published in The Miami Herald. The money was taken from the South Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund and Florida Environmental Task Force Trust Fund — both of which were led by the police force’s division chief, the report says. A separate Herald investigation detailed how spending in these funds skyrocketed while county budget problems deepened.

The IG report also shows that over a nine-year period, suspect expenditures included US $35,000 for 30 rifles and scopes (only one was issued to an environmental crimes officer); US $1.1 million in cell phone and data charges (some by staff members not assigned to environmental crimes); US $70,000 worth of cameras and GPS devices (still unrecovered); and six SUVs totaling US $293,000 (assigned to command staff who rarely visit crime scenes).

Lessons Learned

Where were the auditors? There were several red flags of potential fraud, waste, and abuse, but presumably no one was examining the expenses charged against the two funds. If the auditors had been looking, in all likelihood they would have noticed:

  • An increase in expenses while other county projects were cutting back because of budget woes.
  • Purchased items being delivered to nonwork addresses.
  • A lack of a clear definition of eligible expenses.
  • No challenge over what was being purchased.
  • Purchases unrelated to the activity.

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