Sheriff's PSA investigation nets additional arrests
Four people were arrested Tuesday, March 26 and charged with felonies related to the financial improprieties discovered last year at the Camden County Public Service Authority.
The Camden County Sheriff’s Office announced that former PSA director William Brunson, former assistant PSA director Shawnta Jenkins, former Camden County chief financial officer Mike Fender and Fender’s wife, Caroline, were taken into police custody on Tuesday.
Brunson, who had previously been charged with $38,500 in theft from the PSA, now faces 400 counts of financial card fraud, said a sheriff’s office news release. He also has been charged with criminal receipt of goods, conspiracy to commit a crime, conspiracy to defraud a state or political subdivision and theft by deception, said a CCSO release.
According to investigators, those 400 bank card transactions equate to thousands of dollars in purchases that were of a personal nature.
It has been almost a year since the Georgia Bureau of Investigation sought an indictment for Brunson on two counts of theft by taking of government property in the amount of $17,500 and $21,000 from the PSA, allegedly to purchase personal vehicles.
After the GBI turned over its case to the district attorney, the sheriff’s office continued working on the case.
“… After reviewing an audit conducted by an independent accounting firm from Macon, Ga., for Camden County in September of 2018, it was discovered that $1.7 million in questionable transactions were unaccounted for after the GBI investigation was concluded,” the news release said. “After reviewing the audit Sheriff Jim Proctor assigned Sheriff’s Office Investigators to conduct an additional investigation concerning the disappearance of the unaccounted funds.”
According to the CCSO, the investigation revealed that Brunson had stolen the funds from a PSA general expenditure account, as well as two Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) accounts.
“The SPLOST 6 and SPLOST 7 accounts were to be used by the (PSA) for future upgrades to the parks and recreation programs and properties. Over $811,000 is missing from the SPLOST 6 account, and over $128,000 is missing from the SPLOST 7 funds,” the release added.
Investigators also believe Jenkins, who was arrested Tuesday in Houston County, was involved in those crimes. According to the release, he is facing charges of felony theft by deception, conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision and conspiracy to commit a crime.
“The investigation also revealed that the former chief financial officer for Camden County, Mike Fender, and his wife, Carolyn Fender, received funds in excess of $430,000 for a school, Advanced Learning Center, which is owned by the Fenders. The school funding had been disguised as a grant that did not exist,” the sheriff’s office release stated.
The Fenders were arrested on felony charges of theft by deception, conspiracy to defraud a political subdivision, and conspiracy to commit a crime.
All of those arrested are considered not guilty unless convicted in a court of law and the sheriff’s office said this is an active and continuing investigation. Additional charges are possible, the release said.
“After reviewing the independent audit, I determined that the millions of dollars of taxpayer money that was missing needed additional investigation. As sheriff of Camden County, I assigned criminal investigators to continue the work that had been done by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and bring additional charges to those responsible for these illegal activities,” Proctor said. “We owe it to the citizens of Camden County to see that those responsible are prosecuted for their actions.”