Computer-savvy inmate allegedly diverts funds to 21 inmate accounts

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By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

An enterprising inmate housed at the Kentucky State Reformatory allegedly created a computer program to divert about $6,800 to inmate accounts during a 13-month period.

Employees of state auditor Crit Luallen’s office discovered the apparent theft after working with the state Department of Corrections to examine the agency’s inmate payroll processing system.

An anonymous caller prompted the audit after questioning Kentucky Correctional Industries’ inmate labor reimbursements.

KCI is located at the Kentucky State Reformatory in La Grange and houses six active industrial plants employing 175 inmates.

During the examination, auditors discovered an inmate with significant computer expertise allegedly manipulated payroll data at KCI to create higher payments to inmates’ commissary accounts, which are used to purchase goods at the reformatory’s canteen.

Concealed formulas found within the monthly inmate payroll file resulted in a total of $6,876.65 in excess payments made to 21 accounts between January 2007 and January 2008. The process involved hidden worksheets within a Microsoft Excel file, only accessible if users left a certain field blank and clicked on the worksheet, according to the auditor’s report.

Prison officials said they believe the inmate created hidden formulas using another computer and transferred the files by floppy disk.

Some might call the accused inmate KCI’s unofficial tech guy.

He performed clerk duties for the office coordinator, has significant computer expertise and staff members relied on him as a resource for computer-related issues at another facility prior to being transferred to KSR.

The staff told auditors anyone having trouble with computer files or programs would consult the particular inmate and he’d resolve the problem.

He is the only inmate provided access to the Excel payroll file used by the office coordinator at the beginning of each month to update inmate information, according to the auditor’s report.

The inmate is now under investigation by the Kentucky State Police. He has not been formally charged.

DOC spokesperson Lisa Lamb said the inmate is no longer employed by KCI and is housed in the reformatory’s segregation unit.

In a letter to of appreciation the auditor’s office, DOC Commissioner LaDonna Thompson wrote, “This investigation revealed to both Auditor and Department of Corrections staff of the existence of an inmate employed by KCI who possessed the unique ability, skill set and technological knowledge to exploit the weaknesses of the KCI Information and Technologies System.”

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