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Franklinton clerks charged with stealing utility payments

In June 2014, the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations Hammond Field Office received a complaint from the Franklinton Town Clerk’s Office following the discovery of billing and payment irregularities in the town’s water utility bills. The complaint alleged that two town employees were suspected of mishandling funds collected from Franklinton residents for water and utility service payments.

During the course of the investigation, an audit conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office brought to light suspicious activity by two employees, Carmen Freeman, a 39-year-old white female, and Caprice Dawson, a 42-year-old black female of Washington Parish. Freeman’s and Dawson’s official duties included processing the billing and payments of all customers utilizing the town’s water services.

The audit indicated that from January 2013 to February 2014, Freeman and Dawson processed more than 230 payments amounting to more than $22,000; however, the funds were never deposited into the town’s account.

Further investigation by LSP detectives revealed that both Freeman and Dawson fraudulently mishandled and diverted the payments for their own personal gain. Subsequently, arrest warrants for Freeman and Dawson were issued by the 22nd Judicial District Court on charges of felony theft, computer fraud, second-degree injuring of public records and malfeasance in office.

Freeman turned herself in on Dec. 10, and Dawson turned herself in on Dec. 11. Both were booked without incident at the Washington Parish Jail in Franklinton.

Franklinton Mayor Wayne Fleming declined comment and deferred to the State Police investigators.

“We want the public to know that kind of activity will not be tolerated,” Trooper Greg Marchand with the State Police said. “Louisiana State Police are committed to investigating criminal or suspicious activity.”

Anyone wishing to report such acts to the Louisiana State Police Bureau of Investigations, Hammond Field Office is urged to contact detectives at 985-543-4182. Citizens can also utilize the Louisiana State Police online reporting system, which is available through a convenient and secure reporting form that is submitted to the appropriate investigators by visiting www.lsp.org and clicking the Suspicious Activity link.