Audit: Cheatham County, Tennessee Schools lost $30K in fuel card skimming fraud

“For many years our office has recommended that Cheatham County adopt a central system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing.”
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(The Center Square) – The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office found in its annual audit Cheatham County Schools lost nearly $30,000 due to fraudulent fuel charges that were not reported in a timely manner.

The charges were part of $59,788.95 in fraudulent charges on school fuel cards. Of that, just more than $30,000 was reimbursed.

Two of the credit cards the school district uses for fuel were skimmed at a Cheatham County business, according to a statement from the school district.

“The thieves then reportedly used the card information at other businesses in middle Tennessee,” the statement said. “The district was able to catch most of this activity and turned it over to law enforcement. No one in the district has made any fraudulent charges. The district has additional checks and balances in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

The fraudulent charges were first discovered in March 2021 and the school’s transportation director filed an unauthorized use affidavit with Wex Fleet Fraud Services. More fraud was found in October 2021 and another affidavit was filed along with a fraud reporting form to the comptroller’s office and a police report in January 2022. Wex had a 60-day reimbursement policy after fraud was reported, meaning only the second group of fraudulent charges was reimbursed.

“For many years our office has recommended that Cheatham County adopt a central system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing,” said Tennessee Comptroller Jason Mumpower. “This is a best practice that would centralize the funds administered by the county mayor, road superintendent, and school department under one office. We believe this would significantly improve accountability and the quality of services provided to the citizens of Cheatham County.”

The comptroller’s audit also reported the district’s Director of Schools Cathy Beck received $9,000 from a federal grant that was not authorized by the school board but was approved in the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant application by the Tennessee Department of Education. The audit found that bonus was not part of the employment contract Beck has with the district and was termed unauthorized compensation in the audit.

A statement from the district said Beck’s work was part of a consortium with Dickson County and Hickman County school districts for oversight and support in ESSER grant planning.

The statement said the payment to Beck was part of state-approved “stipends for all team members for after-hours work” on the consortium and it did not require a board vote.

Jon Styf
Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.

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