Tennessee Cooperative Employee Misappropriated Nearly $1 Million, Audit Says

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A former accountant with the Decatur-based Volunteer Energy Cooperative stole nearly $1 million from the entity, according to an audit Tennessee Comptrollers released Wednesday.

This month a Meigs County Grand Jury indicted that former accountant, Jason Kittle, on one count of theft over $250,000.

This, after Comptrollers and officials with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation looked into Kittle’s activities, according to the audit.

“This is one of the largest cases of theft that we have investigated,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, in a press release.

Investigators determined that Kittle stole at least $994,981 between June 2011 and December 2017. Kittle used three schemes to steal VEC money for his personal use, auditors wrote.

• Kittle stole $735,318 by making 242 transfers from a VEC account to his personal bank account.

• Kittle stole $229,293 by making 204 payments to his personal credit card account.

• Kittle stole $30,368 by making 48 payments to a credit card account in the name of a family member.

“Kittle was able to his conceal his misappropriation by recording the fraudulent transactions in VEC’s accounting system as online payment fees, returns, or similar transactions,” auditors wrote.

“Kittle also managed and reconciled the statements of the VEC bank account, which allowed the theft to remain undetected for years.”

Kittle told VEC officials that payments were made to his personal credit card account from the VEC bank account. His employment was terminated on January 2, 2018, auditors wrote.

VEC spokesman David Murphy told The Tennessee Star Wednesday that Kittle’s activities were “well-hidden.”

“This was not taxpayer money, it was money collected from the customers,” Murphy said.

VEC is an electric cooperative, formed in 1935 and serves more than 96,000 members in all or part of 17 Tennessee counties. VEC is governed by a board of directors consisting of 12 members representing the 17 counties served, according to the audit.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.
Photo “Meigs County Jail” by Meigs County Sherrif Department. 

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