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Dallas County Prisoner Trust Fund Bilked of $700,000 With Faked Debit Release Cards by Jail Employee

On October 19, 2021, auditors for Dallas County, Texas, reported to commissioners that lax oversight allowed an employee in the county Sheriff’s Department (DCSD) to use hundreds of damaged debit-release cards to draw almost $700,000 from a trust fund for prisoners at the county jail—leaving the account $85,000 in the red.

Prisoners and detainees have their cash confiscated at booking and placed in trust fund accounts, which they can then add to and use for commissary purchases. When leaving the jail, they are given a debit card with the balance of their trust account on it.

After the county received notice that the prisoner trust fund was $85,000 overdrawn, an investigation uncovered the scheme and traced it to an employee, DCSD clerk Umeka Myers. She had worked for the agency 26 years when she was arrested and fired in April 2021. She was charged with property theft and is awaiting trial.

She had apparently discovered that damaged cards, thought to be unusable, were actually functional. Using 306 of them, she created duplicates of cards given to released prisoners, double-billing the county for almost $700,000 before she was caught. There was no policy or procedure to dispose of damaged cards then.

There is now.

County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who exercises oversight of DCSD, noted the scheme predated current sheriff Marian Brown’s 2017 assumption of office.

“This sheriff inherited this,” he said. “This didn’t happen in one year, this didn’t happen in two years. It appears as though, from the audit, this has been ongoing.”

After the county auditor, Darryl Thomas, discovered the overdraft, the release-card system vendor, Keefe Commissary Network, restored $97,390. But the prisoner trust fund was still not fully restored. According to Thomas, the audit and investigation involved finding bank cameras that recorded Myers using the bogus debit cards, “and it was hard.”

Apparently, so is the entire investigation. The Sheriff’s Special Investigation Unit has turned the matter over to the FBI.

PLN has reported extensively on these abusive debit cards which are foisted on prisoners and arrestees who are charged fees in order to access own money. The debit card companies claim their debit cards somehow protect prisoners’ money.  

Sources: Dallas Morning News, KTVT

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