Fuel charges under scrutiny

Richmond County sheriff's investigators are looking into thousands of dollars of suspicious fuel charges coming from the county's Animal Services Department.

 

Several employees were interviewed by police Wednesday after about $10,000 in fuel charges showed up in the department's records, according to Lt. Tony Walden.

"We have video, and we know for a fact some of those gas cards were used to put gas in personal vehicles," Lt. Walden said.

Employees are given Fuelman gasoline cards and their own personal identification number for county-owned vehicles. However, it appears the same PIN was used a number of times on separate cards, Lt. Walden said.

"I suspect that we're going to end up with more than one person involved," he said.

Investigators are trying to sift through as many as 109 "suspicious" transactions that occurred between Aug. 18 and Sept. 14.

City Administrator Fred Russell said the city's fleet manager informed him of the charges about two weeks ago and they were turned over to the sheriff's department.

Mr. Russell said that fleet management monitors the charges very closely and that with 1,000 fuel cards issued to city employees, abuses are not uncommon.

"This happens every six months to a year," he said. "It happens."

As soon as thefts are detected, the thieves are prosecuted, Mr. Russell said.

No arrests were made Wednesday. A message left for Animal Services Director Diane Downs was not returned Wednesday.

Staff Writer Sylvia Cooper contributed to this article.

THE CHRONICLE BROKE THIS STORY, POSTING IT ON ITS WEB SITE AT 11:44 A.M. WEDNESDAY.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.