Federal and state prosecutors Thursday announced the results of a combined effort to charge public officials with corruption-related charges. The cases represent a total loss of more than $1 million.
"Operation Public Accountability," as prosecutors called it, resulted in charges against 15 public and government workers across the state.
Most of them are treasurers – for agencies like a middle school, a fire department, and even a town.
The amount of money allegedly stolen or misappropriated ranges from $1,256.75 to almost $500,000. U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler says it’s important to put each case in context.
"In a lot of these cases, in these small towns, it’s about a percentage of their annual budget," Minkler says. "$50,000 is a lot of money to the Greenwood Schools. $44,000 is a lot in Vermillion County."
Prosecutors say some used the money to pay for personal items, like vehicles.
The largest case, by amount of money, is against Jacqueline Fitzgerald and Monica Durrett, who worked at the Indianapolis Local Public Bond Bank. They’re charged with stealing about $400,000 over several years.
Minkler says preventative measures are being implemented to help deter similar crimes from happening again.
"In all these investigations the State Board of Accounts will note deficiencies in some of these towns, will suggest corrective measures, and will issue compliance reports," Minkler says. "So that some of these small townships that have public dollars, that have access to this money, are able to be better watchdogs of the public money that they receive."
Minkler says Indiana State Police helped in some rural areas, where catching this kind of crime can be a challenge for local law enforcement.
Minkler says none of the cases are connected, aside from the fact that they're all public or government workers. Five are federal cases, and the rest are state level. And he says they should be able to recover the money and return it to their respective agencies.
All 15 individuals have been arrested.