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Saturday, January 22, 2022
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Over $600,000 Missing from Dallas County Jail Commissary Funds

City & State

Aerial view of the Dallas County Jail. | Image by G.J. McCarthy, Dallas Morning News

After close to $700,000 in Dallas County Jail inmates’ commissary funds were reportedly stolen, the FBI has been asked to investigate.

During meetings held on Tuesday at the Dallas County Commissioners Court, officials told Dallas County Commissioners that a Sheriff’s Department employee found irregularities in accounts. These occurred over six years, from 2015 to 2021.

Inmates at the Dallas County Jail have access to commissary funds through a Sheriff’s Department trust fund. Relatives and friends of inmates can send money to the commissary accounts on their behalf. Inmates spend the money on items ranging from food and drink to sneakers. Inmates are given debit cards with their remaining balance when they are released.

The result of an internal investigation was presented to the Commissioners Court on Tuesday by county auditors. The results revealed that the system had flaws that allowed an employee to produce debit cards from an inmate trust fund. County auditors, however, said that officials had fixed the flaws through new oversight.

According to a copy of the county’s audit obtained by the Dallas Morning News, 306 debit cards were issued from inmates’ accounts that had been closed. The 306 debit cards had funds of nearly $700,000 in them, exceeding the department’s trust fund balance.

Officials ordered the audit when the Sheriff’s Department commissary trust fund account was overdrawn in March 2020 by over $85,000.

The audit also found no procedures for refunding and disposing of damaged debit cards. In addition, the department did not monitor the inflow and outflow of money into the commissary account.

The audit also discovered that the clerks inappropriately used $4,449 from the trust fund to pay for the transportation of inmates released from jail. It also found that there were no checks in place to prevent employees from activating a closed account from an inmate who had been released.

Sheriff Marian Brown said the issue had been investigated by the special investigations unit of the Sheriff’s Department, and it has been passed to the FBI for further investigation.

“There are some criminal elements involved,” said Brown. “We have been able to determine as far back as 2016 when instances were happening.”

Keefe Commissary Network, an external vendor, designed the system that controls the accounts and produces the debit cards. The audit revealed that the vendor had refunded $97,390 of the stolen funds.

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