Audit details $300,000 stolen from Callaway County Collector’s Office

  

Former collector pleads guilty to federal criminal charges regarding theft of public funds

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On Monday, the completed audit of the Callaway County Collector’s Office, which found more than $300,000 stolen, was released, and the former collector pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges regarding the theft.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway said that the report determined at least $316,758 was misappropriated from the County Collector’s office between January 1, 2016 and March 15, 2018. Pam Oestreich, who resigned in March as the county collector amid a criminal investigation, pleaded guilty to the theft of public funds.    

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.

“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,” 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.”

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 clerk.

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.

The full audit of the Callaway County Collector is online here.