WARREN COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - State Auditor Shad White announced Special Agents from his office, along with officers from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, arrested former Warren County Tax Collector’s office bookkeeper Paula Hunt.
Hunt was arrested for embezzlement by a public official after she was indicted by a grand jury. Hunt also received a demand letter for $165,329.98 at the time of her arrest.
As bookkeeper, Hunt was responsible for handling cash and checks received by the Warren County Tax Collector and making daily bank deposits for the office. She also had the ability to transfer funds between the tax collector’s office bank accounts. Hunt is accused of stealing cash from payments received by the office from November 2017 to August 2018. To conceal the missing cash, Hunt allegedly transferred money between office bank accounts. The embezzlement scheme was discovered and reported to the Auditor’s office when a bank account from the tax collector’s office was overdrawn.
“Paula Hunt had too much control over the money that flowed through her office, and that control gave her the opportunity to embezzle a large amount of taxpayers’ money,” said Auditor White. “Public officials around the state need to be aware of this example and need to review their own offices to see who might have the opportunity to steal in the same way Hunt did.”
“It doesn’t matter how much you might personally trust your employees,” said White. “Be sure no one person has too much control over cash.”
A $50,000 surety bond covered Hunt’s employment at the Warren County Tax Collector’s office. A surety bond is similar to insurance for taxpayers and helps ensure money stolen or misspent by a public official is recovered. Hunt will remain personally liable for the entire amount of the demand.
If convicted, Hunt faces up to 20 years in prison or $5,000 in fines. All persons arrested by the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The case will be prosecuted by the office of District Attorney Smith.
The Auditor’s office has issued demands worth over $4.1 million on behalf of Mississippi taxpayers since July 2018. The public can help the Auditor’s office protect public money by reporting embezzlement of public funds online any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.