(The Heart Sq.) – A former lieutenant at the Office environment of the State Hearth Marshal “improperly” diverted emergency hurricane cash to a number of organizations tied to his brother, who himself is a previous point out prosecutor, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) reported.
The LLA laid out the scheme in a new report, which partially relied on information and facts from the district legal professional for the 18th Judicial District and the sheriff’s departments for West Baton Rouge and Iberville parishes.
Lt. Robert McCormick diverted $846,140 to three firms doing company with or on behalf of his brother, Thomas McCormick, in the wake of Hurricane Laura, a group 4 storm that slammed into southwest Louisiana in August 2020, the report explained.
The businesses also diverted almost $400,000 to Thomas McCormick’s regulation company for “legal fees” and other wide expenditure categories. The taxpayer resources then were being dispersed to personally advantage the brothers and numerous other individuals, auditors mentioned.
“We executed this audit following getting a report from the Division of Administration of some transactions designed by staff with the Office of the Point out Fire Marshal that may perhaps have violated LaCarte card insurance policies and methods,” Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack said.
LaCarte playing cards are state-issued credit history cards that allow for OSFM personnel to make buys for the duration of emergencies.
The agency was tasked with conducting urban research and rescue functions as well as carrying out surveys of harmed making buildings just after Hurricane Laura. Gov. John Bel Edwards suspended standard procurement prerequisites to expedite help to challenging-hit disaster spots, together with procedures impacting the LaCarte playing cards.
Specific expenditures had been flagged by the Place of work of Condition Travel, an company with the Division of Administration, months later on for the duration of a plan evaluate course of action and reported to the Legislative Auditor. The “large, unusual purchases” pertained two vendors known as Presents Unlimited LLC and Westside Services LLC. A third vendor, Crisis Logistics Solutions, later on was determined.
“These data demonstrate that Lt. McCormick’s brother, Thomas McCormick, applied Items Limitless, Westside Companies, and Emergency Logistics Methods to agreement with OSFM for materials, gear rentals, catering, and other crisis solutions that have been requested and paid for by, or at the ask for of, Lt. McCormick,” the 90-webpage audit claimed.
“It additional seems that Thomas McCormick charged OSFM extreme price ranges for some of the merchandise and solutions presented by Presents Unlimited and Westside Providers, which include bottled h2o marketed to OSFM at an average markup of approximately 10 instances above the true value for the water in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura,” auditors reported.
Information outlined in the report show OSFM paid Items Limitless and Westside Companies $783,531 for bottled h2o, transportation companies, tools rentals, catering, and other crisis solutions from Aug. 30, 2020, to April 29, 2021.
The amount of money contains $480,521 in LaCarte card buys of which additional than half ranged from $24,000 to $24,974. The finding is significant because one transactions are constrained to $25,000.
The bulk of the transactions also have been requested and compensated on or behalf of Lt. McCormick, auditors found.
The McCormick brothers and many alleged accomplices ended up indicted in July right after District Legal professional Troy Clayton introduced costs from them in the 18th Judicial District, where by Thomas McCormick once served as a prosecutor.
The fees integrated dollars laundering, racketeering, filing bogus paperwork and malfeasance even though in public office.
Clayton stated at the time that the Legislative Auditor’s office notified him just after exploring probable wrongdoing before this 12 months.
“They went underneath include and they monitored it,” Clayton claimed.
The coordination involving the district attorney’s workplace and condition auditors could prove problematic, nevertheless, as lawyers for the McCormicks asserted innocence and stated the prosecutor-auditor romance was itself inappropriate.
“We have serious considerations about the entanglement involving the Legislative Auditor and the District Lawyer and his agents through the investigation of this make any difference and both of those the pace with which it was indicted as nicely as the motives guiding Mr. Clayton’s velocity,” the attorneys said in a response letter to the audit.
“It calls the Auditor’s independence into dilemma when you permit prosecutors and legislation enforcement staff to actively get component in your investigations to the extent famous herein,” they wrote.