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Arkansas Sheriff Took Kickbacks for Card Fees, Class-Action Suit Says

An Arkansas Sheriff received kickbacks from a company hired to convert cash seized from county jail prisoners to prepaid debit cards “with numerous exorbitant fees,” a federal class-action lawsuit claims.

More than 2,200 people who were arrested or booked in the Benton County Jail claim their cash was seized and later returned as prepaid debit cards that charged them fees of $1.50 to $38 per transaction.

According to the lawsuit, Sheriff Kelley Cradduck hired co-defendant Keefe Commissary Network to provide jail commissary services “for specified inflated prices and upon certain terms.”

“One of these terms was that defendant Keefe would pay a kickback to defendant Cradduck of 34% of ‘adjusted gross sales’ of gross commissary sales, less certain noncommissioned items,” the complaint states. “This kickback is expressly identified and referred to as a ‘service fee’ in the contract between defendants.”

The contract was allegedly signed in April 2012.

“Under this contract and the policy, defendant Cradduck has agreed with defendant Keefe that money seized from arrestees and/or prisoners is to be involuntarily placed into a ‘designated account.’ Defendant Cradduck has purported to authorize defendant Keefe to withdraw and convert funds properly belonging to the class members from this designated account, to the injury of the class members,” the lawsuit states.

“This agreement is part of the quid pro quo for the kickback that defendant Cradduck receives under the commissary agreement.... This agreement includes a schedule of fees that are involuntarily charged to inmates for the use (and failure to use) the prepaid debit card.”

Lead plaintiff Yves Adams was arrested in February 2013 on suspicion of public intoxication, according to the complaint. Sheriff’s deputies allegedly seized his $613 in cash.

After spending the night in jail, Adams was issued “an unwanted prepaid debit card rather than the currency which he legitimately owned and possessed and which was seized from him by defendant Cradduck’s deputies when he was released from the Benton County Jail,” he claims.

He says he asked for his cash, but the prepaid debit card was “the only way that he could receive his money ... under defendant Cradduck’s policy.”

“As a result of this policy and practice, the $613 in cash (currency) that was seized by defendant Cradduck from Mr. Adams when he was arrested was never returned to him,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, he was issued a prepaid debit card in the amount of $613, which he used to withdraw money from an ATM in order to pay for his bond, a transaction that improperly and illegally cost him $2.75 according to the schedule of fees to complete.”

The average amount placed on a prepaid debit card upon a prisoner’s release from jail is $88.74, according to the lawsuit.

The class members seek punitive damages for alleged civil rights violations, conversion and trespass. They are represented by attorneys Charles M. Kester of Fayetteville and Monzer Mansour of Springdale. [See: Adams v. Cradduck, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Ark.), Case No. 5:13-cv-05074-JLH].

This article was originally published by Courthouse News Service ( on April 12, 2013, and is reprinted with permis-sion.

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Related legal case

Adams v. Cradduck