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It all began with a phone call from an Immokalee mother whose daughter's W-2s were incorrect: She'd been at college and couldn't have worked those hours at the Immokalee Sports Complex.
It led to a review of county employees' time cards, the discovery of six employees' forged signatures and embezzlement by two county employees - prompting them to confess they'd cashed the checks and ending in their terminations last April.
On Friday, a day after his arrest, Michael Reyna, 33, of East Adams Avenue, Immokalee, appeared before County Judge Mike Carr on a charge of scheme to defraud less than $20,000. Citing the government corruption and the seriousness of the crime, Carr set bond at $50,000.
Reyna and Joseph Boney, 36, of North 18th Street, Immokalee, turned themselves in Thursday. Bond for Boney had already been set at $5,000, which he posted, ending in his release hours later.
If convicted of the third-degree felony, they face up to five years in a state prison.
Neither Boney, the employee's supervisor, nor Reyna, who inputted employee time cards into the computer, could be reached for comment. However, Boney told his bosses in 2012 that the employee agreed he could fill out her time cards and cash her checks.
"He had admitted to having financial issues with his house," says a county audit prompted by the mother's call.
The mother who prompted the audit and her daughter could not be reached for comment.
An incident report shows Parks and Recreation Director Barry Williams reported the thefts to the Sheriff's Office in April 2012. The report says the employee left for college in September 2011, and Boney and Reyna continued to turn in her time cards and cash her checks.
"Barry stated that both Michael and Joseph admitted to the theft and stated that they were sorry," the report says.
A final report, showing the results of the investigation, was not available Friday. But a county human resources investigation led to an internal audit by Circuit Clerk Dwight Brock's office that focused on 25 temporary and part-time employees at the Immokalee Sports Complex and Immokalee Community Center who were issued paper checks between Aug. 29, 2009, and March 23, 2012.
It showed Boney was falsifying time cards, which were being entered into the system by Reyna, prompting a payroll check to be issued. Another park employee was supposed to review time cards, but didn't, allowing Reyna to pick up the printed checks and distribute them. Reyna and Boney then cashed them at Immokalee businesses; the exact number of checks and the amount weren't immediately available.
The audit showed a lack of management oversight: thefts and forgeries of six employees' signatures, unsigned time cards getting approved, 639 time entry errors, 330 calculation errors, other errors, duplicated times, and four employees working at multiple locations.
Auditors found timecards with conflicting information or mathematical errors, missing records, hours entered in the computer that weren't on time cards, and two workers with two separate employee numbers. The county ended up underpaying some employees $13,746.97, while others were overpaid $10,749.08.
County auditors recommended oversight and termination of employees once they left the county jobs. Auditors noted 40 percent of employees were not terminated when they became inactive and 5.3 percent weren't removed from the system even after 120 days of inactivity.
"Retaining inactive job bank employees can create the opportunity for fraud/theft," the audit says. "By properly terminating inactive employees, it lowers risk."
Williams couldn't be reached for comment Friday, but told county commissioners last year that the Parks and Recreation Department had changed procedures to ensure it would never happen again.