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Large personnel turnover to blame for missing money at DA’s office, officials say

Posted at 6:28 PM, Feb 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-13 19:34:44-05

The State Attorney General’s office has stepped in to investigate “mishandled money” at the Nueces County District Attorney’s office.

The investigation began after county employees say more than 100 checks made out to the DA’s office were found in a desk drawer there. Some of those checks date back to 2016.

After being informed of the state-level investigation, Nueces County auditors met with staff from the District Attorney’s office to discuss how finances can be better managed in the DA’s office.

County auditors say District Attorney Mark Gonzalez was not present for the meeting.

Internal Audit Manager Elva Fuentes said the pile of asset forfeiture checks was brought to her in a box. Those checks are written by law enforcement agencies after confiscating money or drugs related to criminal activity. Each time, the District Attorney’s office gets a cut of the profit.

That led to this question: how were hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of checks disregarded?

Fuentes blames the misstep on what she called a “large personnel turnover” in the DA’s office in recent years.

According to the County Auditor’s office, 156 checks were written by the Corpus Christi Police Department and made out to the District Attorney’s office between the years of 2017 and 2018. Those checks were never cashed, leaving a hanging balance of $113,384.36.

According to state law, the DA’s office can use these funds for “official purposes in his office,” and funding for municipal and county law enforcement agencies.

County officials say they are working with the city of Corpus Christi to ensure this doesn’t happen again. They have come to an agreement that these funds will be transferred to the DA’s office via direct deposit instead of issuing handwritten checks.

Additionally, a second assistant has been appointed in the District Attorney’s office to primarily oversee financial matters.

The county’s audit department said all checks have now been received and deposited and there is no longer an outstanding balance.

Both Gonzalez and first assistant District Attorney Matt Manning were unavailable for comment Wednesday.