Zurik: Recipient of questionable court funds drops off check, cash at courthouse
Current clerk handed over forensic examination to law enforcement for investigation
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A forensic examination of questionable spending by a now-former court clerk is in the hands of law enforcement agencies for review of possible criminal charges.
FOX 8 Investigates exposed the questionable spending of former First City Court Clerk Timothy David Ray and payments made during his final weeks in office. Ray was clerk of the First City Court for less than seven months before losing a special election to the current clerk, Austin Badon.
After taking the office following the special election, Badon reviewed the office and its financial information, noticing the irregularities totaling thousands of dollars. He took his findings to the judges who ordered a fraud examination report to be done.
The report mirrored what FOX 8 found showing a series of checks written during Ray’s final days in office. The report found Ray wrote a check for $4,766 to Merlin Flores, Sr., a pastor at a Plaquemines Parish church, for shelving at the clerk’s office.
FOX 8 found receipts and verified with the clerk’s office that no work was ever done to the shelving in the office. Flores told FOX 8′s Lee Zurik that he only provided estimates to the clerk.
Days after our first story aired, Flores wrote a letter to the court’s judicial administrator saying he was “contracted to do a job, but before the work could be completed the officeholders transitioned." He also stated he would send a reimbursement check for nearly $3,200.
Badon said last week a person showed up at the courthouse with a check for $3,000 and $1,767 in cash -- one dollar more than the check he was written for the estimates for the clerk’s office.
“For me -- that’s a red flag, because why isn’t it all in the form of a check?,” Badon said. “I don’t know why they did it. I don’t know who the person was that did it. I know it was a Caucasian female who came into office and dropped it off. But nobody knows who that individual is.”
Badon said the court is holding the money in a safe and won’t deposit it since the report is now in the hands of law enforcement.
Another questionable check written was for boxes to be moved to a storage facility in Algiers. The clerk’s office had a contract with that company for the transport of documents to their facility at no extra cost. However in his final days in office, Ray paid Morgan Jones to move the boxes for more than $5,000.
“This ain’t my first rodeo, but generally the person who loses is not going to try to clean out the office for the incoming person who just beat him,” Badon said.
The contents of the boxes that were moved by Jones were said to be files that did not have to be stored, according to Badon who said he inspected the contents of the boxes.
“It was just old fluff files,” Badon said. “Just stuff that was in the office -- basically filler for the boxes. They were not active files or anything like that. It was just filler.”
Badon also said he was told that Ray was informed that the company would transport items to their facility at no extra cost.
“When you look at these spending habits, it raises eyebrows”
Badon said the situation is now up to law enforcement to review and determine if there are any criminal violations made by the now-former clerk. He said the findings of the fraud examination report have been handed over to the FBI, Department of Justice, Orleans Parish District Attorney, Louisiana Bar Association and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
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