JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Sept. 24, 2018) Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released an audit of the Callaway County Collector's Office, which found more than $300,000 was stolen from the collector's office between Jan. 1, 2016 and March 15, 2018. The former collector, Pam Oestreich, resigned in March amid a criminal investigation after county officials were made aware of suspicious bank activity.
"This audit not only provides the details on the more than $300,000 missing from the Callaway County Collector's Office, but also outlines the deliberate actions taken to conceal the theft," Auditor Galloway said. "To see taxpayer dollars abused in this way is deeply disappointing. My office worked with law enforcement and county officials to hold the former public official accountable for her actions."
During the more than two years covered by the audit, more than $244,000 in cash went missing and was not deposited. The former collector would write checks from a separate account to hide the cash shortages. The shell game continued when funds were moved from property tax collections to conceal the improperly issued checks used to cover the missing cash. Additionally, more than $71,000 in improper checks were issued by the former collector directly to herself.
The audit identified concerns with the property tax system including errors and inaccuracies in several years of annual settlements, the lack of adequate monitoring and oversight related to the financial activities of the collector and changes entered into the property tax system. The improper deletion of a tax bill totaling more than $74,000 was not detected and used as a way to conceal stolen funds by the former collector.
Unrecorded property tax collections resulted in over $217,000 not being disbursed to various local entities, including schools, cities, and other taxing districts. The report recommended better checks and balances and improved controls over cash handling in the county collector's office to detect and prevent improper activity in the future.
Missouri law requires an audit be performed when a vacancy occurs in a county collector's office, but stipulates that the audit begins after a new collector takes office. In this circumstance, due to the nature of the resignation, Auditor Galloway and the Callaway County Commission worked to ensure an audit could begin in an expedited timeframe.
The former collector pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges regarding the theft of public funds earlier today. Auditor Galloway worked with local officials, the US Attorney's Office and FBI on the criminal investigation that resulted in the plea. The full audit of the Callaway County Collector is online here.