JACKSON, Miss. – Today Auditor
Shad White announced Special Agents from his office have arrested former
Quitman County School District employee, Linder Howze-Campbell, after she was
indicted for fraud by a grand jury assembled by District Attorney Brenda
Mitchell. A demand letter worth $72,031.44 was delivered to Howze-Campbell at
the time of her arrest. The total demand amount includes interest and the cost
of the investigation.
Howze-Campbell allegedly submitted fraudulent documents to circumvent laws designed to save money for taxpayers. Because she oversaw the gifted student program for the Quitman County School District, Howze-Campbell knew a business could be paid more money to identify gifted students in the district than the salary she could be paid for the same work. She is accused of fraudulently operating her own business – L & A Educational Services – under the name of her friend, which caused the school district to overpay for gifted student identification services. The school district paid nearly $50,000 to Howze-Campbell’s business from 2015-2017 in addition to her salary.
A routine audit led to suspicion Howze-Campbell had submitted forged business contracts to the school district. Investigators determined the friend she listed as executive director of L & A Educational Services was never an employee of the company. They also identified over 50 fraudulent checks Howze-Campbell wrote from an L & A Educational Services bank account without the knowledge of the person listed as executive director of the company. The checks were issued directly to benefit Howze-Campbell, a different company she owns, and a church where she serves as pastor.
“After Howze-Campbell’s company submitted unusual testing data, increased scrutiny by the Department of Education helped uncover fraud and led to a successful investigation,” said Auditor White. “Mississippians deserve to know that public employees and private consulting firms are providing the work they say they are, and this type of willful fraud is inexcusable. We will recommend the stiffest penalty possible.”
Howze-Campbell surrendered to Special Agents at the Quitman County Jail. She waved arraignment, and her bond was set at $5,000.
If convicted, Howze-Campbell faces $10,000 in fines and 5 years in prison. All persons arrested by the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The case will be prosecuted by District Attorney Mitchell.
No surety bond covers Howze-Campbell’s employment at the Quitman County School District. Surety bonds are similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers from corruption. Howze-Campbell will remain liable for the full amount of the demand in addition to criminal proceedings.
This arrest comes after a recent audit report showed a former school district financial officer in Hinds County spent education funds improperly.
Additionally, the Auditor’s office has released multiple reports in the past year showing administrative and outside-the-classroom spending in our state has increased in the last 10 years, and the inside-the-classroom spending rate in Mississippi compares poorly to other southern states.
“The Auditor’s office under my leadership will continue to look for fraud in the places that are most important to Mississippians, and the education system is at the top of that list,” said White. “We will not tolerate theft from the taxpayers and schoolchildren of this state.”
Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.