Cleveland, TN Utilities Employee Uses Utility Money on Personal Shopping Spree

A Cleveland Utilities information technology clerk went on an eight-month spending binge and used $5,415 of utility funds on travel bags and wireless speakers, among other luxuries, according to a state audit released this week.

Authorities charged the woman, Rexanna Wilson, 50, with theft. Wilson later pled guilty in Bradley County Sessions Court and paid restitution in full, said Cleveland Police spokeswoman Evie West, in an email to The Tennessee Star. 

No contact information for Wilson was apparently available Wednesday, either on social media or through the telephone listings for her area.

“Investigators determined the clerk spent at least $5,415 of utility funds between September 2017 and April 2018. She used the money to purchase at least 92 items including purses, travel bags, wallets, headphones, wireless speakers, woodworking tools, and other items for her personal use,” according to a press release from the Tennessee Comptrollers’ Office.

“The clerk frequently falsified purchasing documents by providing inaccurate descriptions of the items she bought. She also utilized the utilities’ tax-exempt status to avoid paying sales taxes.”

Cleveland Utilities fired Wilson from her position last year.

Comptroller’s worked the case alongside Cleveland Police officers and members of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, according to the Comptrollers’ press release.

“A key weakness in this situation was allowing the clerk to initiate a purchase request, order an item, receive the item, and approve the related invoice for payment,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson.

“These financial responsibilities should be separated between multiple individuals. This key internal control can help prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Cleveland Utilities spokesman Amy Ensley told The Star in an emailed statement that members of her staff reported the fraud to Comptrollers.

“Cleveland Utilities has taken steps to mitigate the fraudulent activity through additional training as it relates to internal control procedures around purchasing and inventory,” Ensley said.

“In addition, Cleveland Utilities has initiated an independent inventory system for all high-risk information technology related stock items. We are and will continue to provide full cooperation with all authorities involved.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Cleveland Utilities” by Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury. 







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