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Jail Employees Steal from Prisoner Fund in Small-Town Maine

After stealing more than $7,200 from a so-called "inmate benefits account," a county jail employee in small-town Maine snitched on a co-worker and implicated his boss in the scam before finally resigning himself.

Capt. Robert Gross, 62, filed his letter of resignation as the Washington County jail administrator on Jan. 18, 2013, a day after he testified against jail clerk Sgt. Karina Richardson, 50, who was fired after a unanimous vote by county commissioners.

Gross and Richardson reportedly stole from the account to buy for themselves such items as smartphones, computers and lingerie. The account, which usually has a balance of between $40,000 and $60,000, is supposed to be used to provide Washington County Jail prisoners with cable-TV, snacks, stationery, stamps, telephone time and commissary items.

In a twist, both former jail employees claimed that Washington County Sheriff Donnie Smith not only authorized the expenditures, but dipped into the fund himself.

"I really don't think I did anything wrong," Gross said in an interview, probably from his smartphone. "The only reason I pulled the plug is how can I go back to work for a man who gave me permission to do something and then said he didn't? Even if I won, I was going to lose."

Though many in Washington County say it's impossible for Smith to not have known about the misappropriations, the sheriff denied Gross' and Richardson's allegations.

"All I can say is that, as soon as I knew what was going on, I got on it," Smith said. "I count on my people to do their jobs correctly and for audits to make sure that they are. If I had known about this sooner, I would have acted sooner."

County Commissioner Chris Gardner said he would be forwarding investigative material to the Maine Attorney General's office, but Donald Brown, Smith's attorney, said he doesn't expect the AG to investigate the sheriff.

Source: Bangor Daily News

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