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Auditors Uncover Hidden Cash Accounts at Chester County, Pennsylvania, Prison

An audit of the Chester County, Pennsylvania, Prison's finances uncovered hidden cash accounts used to collect $18,000 from prisoners between 1984 and 2003. All but $4,000 of the money had already been spent at management's discretion over the years," according to Ray E. White, Jr., acting Chester County Controller. The audit was of the prisoner trust fund, an account intended to hold money for prisoners to spend at the prison's canteen. In 2003, $1.1 million passed through the trust fund. It had a balance of $82,000 at the end of 2003.

The audit report was released just as Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll was scheduled to release initial findings of an investigation into inappropriate expenditures and lack of financial oversight at the prison that were discovered during a 2002 audit. The investigation reportedly failed to find any criminal wrongdoing. However, the release of the findings was delayed after the results of the 2003 audit were made public.

Prison warden John H. Masters claimed that the accounts were not hidden," but were part of a revolving fund to be used to pay for replacement of state property that is damaged by prisoners. However, White said that the cash funds were not disclosed until county auditors uncovered them during the audit.

They should have been disclosed to us, and they weren't. That's a red flag." said White. In May, the controller's office assumed possession of the remaining $4,000 in the cash account.

Although the audit report called the hidden accounts a significant weakness" in internal financial controls, White said he believed them to be due to insufficient training," insufficient documentation," or oversights and human error," not negligence or deliberate misconduct."

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer.

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