By Nicole Galloway, CPA, Missouri State Auditor
Two years ago, I launched a renewed effort to fight fraud and abuse in government by creating the Public Corruption and Fraud Division in my office. In every corner of the state, we've shown that exposing wrongdoing by public officials not only helps recover tax dollars for citizens, it puts others on notice that corruption will not be tolerated. As a CPA and certified fraud examiner, I remain committed to being your independent watchdog as we work to root out fraud and abuse.
Since 2015, audits by my office have led to 77 criminal charges against public officials. That work has been amplified by the Public Corruption and Fraud Division, which includes a team of dedicated attorneys, auditors and investigators. They have a demonstrated history of working with local, state and federal law enforcement to pursue justice for taxpayers.
The results are significant. An audit of the city of Center in northeast Missouri found the city clerk misappropriated more than $300,000 in public funds and used them to pay credit card bills and other personal expenses. That's a lot of taxpayer dollars in a town of only 500 people. She now faces federal criminal charges of wire fraud and theft, and my office is working with prosecutors on the case.
In the Bootheel town of Parma, an audit found a pattern of blatant corruption and cover-ups that resulted in more than $115,000 fraudulently taken from the city. Three former city officials now face criminal charges that include stealing and forgery.
And after our audit of Putnam County Memorial Hospital found $90 million in illegal billings, the Public Corruption and Fraud Division worked with federal law enforcement agencies in Missouri, Florida and Washington, D.C. to share information and support a national investigation involving rural hospitals throughout the country.
The former CEO of the hospital has pleaded guilty to federal health care fraud charges, and others have been charged in a federal indictment to operate a multi-state $1.4 billion billing scheme that used rural hospitals to submit fraudulent claims. The work by my office played a key role in bringing down this scheme.
From charter schools in Kansas City and St. Louis to fire districts in small Missouri towns, I'm proud of all this anti-corruption team has accomplished to expose wrongdoing. Our forensic auditing expertise has resulted in dozens of criminal charges being filed in the past two years. Government officials have been kicked out of office, received felony convictions, and made to repay the money stolen from taxpayers.
I never lose sight of the fact that our success in exposing public corruption depends to a large degree on the information we receive from citizens. Whistleblowers see wrongdoing and take action to do what is right.
As we mark the successes of the Public Corruption and Fraud Division, I'm asking for your help. The Whistleblower Hotline in the State Auditor's Office allows individuals to report suspected fraud and abuse, and you can reach us through phone calls, emails or our website.
In some cases, the information from whistleblowers results in audits that uncover wrongdoing and lead to filing of criminal charges and the convictions of public officials. In other situations, we work with public officials to make them aware of problems that can be resolved quickly or go directly to the proper authorities with allegations.
The bottom line is that I want to hear from you. If you have concerns about abuse and mismanagement in government, you can call 800-347-8597 or visit auditor.mo.gov/hotline. Under the law, whistleblowers have the option to remain anonymous.
I remain dedicated to our mission to expose fraud and protect taxpayer dollars. Involved citizens are important allies in this fight. Together, we can spotlight public corruption and help put a stop to it.