Sheriff Caught Buying Property With Jail Food Funds, Has Tipster Who Turned Him In Arrested

from the nothing-a-little-more-abuse-of-power-can't-fix! dept

Another Alabama sheriff has been caught abusing a law that’s inexplicably still on the books. Over the course of three years, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin took home at least $750,000 in funds meant to be used to feed inmates in his jail. Thanks to another bad law, there’s no telling how much more than $750,000 Entrekin has pocketed, but he certainly seems to have a lot of disposable income. (h/t Guy Hamilton-Smith)

The News discovered the eye-popping figures on ethics disclosures that Entrekin sent to the state: Over the course of three years, he received more than $750,000 in extra compensation from “Food Provisions.” The exact amount over $750,000 is unclear, because Entrekin was not required to specify above a $250,000 a year threshold, the paper writes.

The paper also found that Entrekin and his wife own several properties worth a combined $1.7 million, including a $740,000 four-bedroom house in Orange Beach, Ala., purchased in September.

Without the provision funds, Entrekin earns a little more than $93,000 a year, the paper says.

This aligns Sheriff Entrekin with sheriffs around the state who have enriched themselves at the expense of their inmates. Some sheriffs did enough skimming to force the federal government to step in and slap them with consent decrees in which they promised to spend all jail food funds on jail food. Unfortunately, this did little to help the sheriffs live up to their end of the federal bargain. Sheriffs keep getting richer and inmates keep getting less and less to eat.

Entrekin has decided to blame the media for his current reputational woes.

In a statement emailed to NPR, Entrekin said the “liberal media has began attacking me for following the letter of the law.”

“The Food Bill is a controversial issue that’s used every election cycle to attack the Sheriff’s Office,” Entrekin said. “Alabama Law is clear regarding my personal financial responsibilities of feeding inmates. Until the legislature acts otherwise, the Sheriff must follow the current law.”

No one is forcing Entrekin to take home hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for feeding prisoners. The law allows this but does not require every sheriff running a jail to cut food expenses so there’s a difference to pocket. Yes, the problem ultimately lies with the legislature which has allowed this abomination of a law to remain on the books despite it repeatedly being the source of national controversy.

But this story continues to get worse. It appears the sheriff has managed to take a journalist’s source out of public circulation.

Sheets’ investigation has also made headlines because of the arrest of a key source.

Sheets spoke with a landscaper named Matt Qualls who mowed Entrekin’s lawn in 2015 and noticed the name of the account on his checks — the “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account.” He shared pictures with Sheets.

“A couple people I knew came through the jail, and they say they got meat maybe once a month, and every other day, it was just beans and vegetables,” Qualls told Sheets. “I put two and two together and realized that that money could have gone toward some meat or something.”

Sheets’ initial story was published on Feb. 18. On Feb. 22, Qualls was arrested and charged with drug trafficking after an anonymous call complained of the smell of marijuana from an apartment.

How fortuitous that an anonymous call would come along only days after exposed Sheriff Entrekin’s discretionary spending. Even more fortuitously, another law enforcement agency actually performed the arrest (working with a drug task force that contained members of Entrekin’s force), giving the Sheriff mostly implausible deniability.

[S]pokeswoman Natalie Barton said via email Monday that the case against Qualls “belongs to and was initiated by the Rainbow City Police Department” and “[t]he Etowah County Sheriff’s Office did not have any involvement in the arrest of Mr. Qualls.”

But it did have some involvement. The drug enforcement unit included deputies of Entrekin’s. And it was the sheriff’s department that decided to stack charges against Qualls, which could seem him facing several years in prison.

Rainbow City Police Capt. John Bryant said that his department only charged Qualls with second-degree marijuana possession, possessing drug paraphernalia and felony possession of a controlled substance, namely a few Adderall pills that were not prescribed to him.

But records on the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office website show that Entrekin’s office charged Qualls with three additional crimes: another paraphernalia charge, another felony possession of a controlled substance charge, and felony drug trafficking. Penalties for drug trafficking are extremely steep in Alabama, where people have been imprisoned for life for the crime.

What the drug unit actually found bears almost no resemblance to the charging sheet. Qualls possessed marijuana butter, but rather than use the actual amount of marijuana contained in the apartment (and the butter) — which would have been less than 20 grams — Entrekin’s department decided to declare all of the butter to be marijuana, raising the total weight to 2.3 pounds. This conveniently clears the 2.2 pound bar needed to charge someone with drug trafficking. The chief of the Rainbow City Police, whose officers performed the arrest, says the Sheriff’s weight calculations are “inaccurate.”

Even stranger, Qualls is being charged even though it may not even be his marijuana. The arrest warrant shows a completely different address for Qualls. Qualls says he lives in Gadsen, while the warrant pinpoints his residence as Centre. The arrest took place in Rainbow City.

No matter what the spokesperson says, this is clearly a vindictive arrest of someone who made the mistake of outing a sheriff for blowing jail funds on himself. A 20-year-old who knows people who’ve gone to jail is expendable. It looks as though the sheriff is willing to ruin Qualls’ life for slightly inconveniencing his.

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Comments on “Sheriff Caught Buying Property With Jail Food Funds, Has Tipster Who Turned Him In Arrested”

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Berenerd (profile) says:

One would think that with all of these local governments going bankrupt and having shortfalls, they would see that not much money is going to the food for inmates and would cut the budget there. Lets assume it was JUST 250k/year over. A county could add the funds to schools or just lower taxes. No, rather than find legitimate cuts, they cut things like helping the needy and vets. Are they not required to provide receipts? It just annoys me to no end.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“One would think that with all of these local governments…”

The more simple and correct answer is that your thoughts and assumptions about government are wrong.

Inefficiency, waste, poor management, and corruption are hallmarks of government anywhere.

Incidents of discovered government wrong doing should not be surprising, but most people somehow find them so. Consider all the malfeasance you don’t see.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Most don’t care.

In the US, Jail is for revenge not reform. In the US the idea of a "person released from jail after serving their time" is defined as "ex-convict" a label that will follow them for the rest of their lives and be the deciding factor for many on any judgement made about them past or future. "Oh, they’re an ex-con? Not hiring / selling / trusting / voting for / etc. them then." Matters not on anything else they may do. They are an ex-convict and they are beneath everyone else for life.

That’s why this sheriff, who is a criminal in his own right, will get a free pass on this one. No-one in US society is going to care about the state of care for inmates. In fact given the option, most would rather just shoot the convict dead and be done with it for even the smallest conviction, rather than do anything to make the convict comfortable to any extent. It’s a system of punishment, the only reason they don’t shoot them is because that would be letting them off easy. For the so called "victims" of their crimes, officially they want them to be forced to spend the rest of their lives "thinking about what they’ve done." In reality, they want them to suffer for as long as humanly possible bored out of their minds in a 4×4 cell.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

It’s not just revenge or punishment, it’s also very much a system of psychopathy and barbarism. Psychopathy because the system contains hordes of wards enjoying themselves abusing, crushing, ultimately killing those who happen to become stuck in their hell hole. Barbarism because the systems form of punishment is achieved by denying all human rights, torturing etc. The supporters of this gross system are no more better than the murderers and thieves they put in the cells. All of them: cops, judges, wards, …

Butter Dealer says:

The kid’s case should be determined too tainted for prosecution, the law should be removed and replaced with something at least partially sane, and the sheriff should be thrown in jail for at least three times as long as he’s trying to frame the kid for.

But in America, the best result we can hope for is that the kid will only do some time, the law will stay on the books, and the sheriff will get re-elected.

YaTOG says:

Citizen's arrest for embezzlement...

Even if the charge doesn’t stick, if every citizen of the county does this, one or two people to do the arrest each day of the week, the Sheriff will start to have bruises around his wrists from the hand-cuffs that he’d be wearing on a daily basis.

Would be fun for the county citizens at no cost to them.

They could form a line outside the sheriff’s office so that every time the sheriff walks out the door, another set re-arrests him and walks him back in.

They could record the entire thing, straight to the web, and people watching them would help the prisoners out be earning enough for a happy meal for them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'It wasn't my fault, they MADE me punch them.'

"The Food Bill is a controversial issue that’s used every election cycle to attack the Sheriff’s Office," Entrekin said. "Alabama Law is clear regarding my personal financial responsibilities of feeding inmates. Until the legislature acts otherwise, the Sheriff must follow the current law."

Strange, though I haven’t seen the law in question I find it difficult to believe that it includes a clause stating that sheriffs must use money allocated to feeding inmates for their own personal gain. It’s almost as though he’s trying to hide his despicable actions by claiming that the law requires him to act like a world-class asshole, rather than doing it entirely on his own.

Oddly enough, his ‘defense’ reminds me of an XKCD comic, one involving free speech(no, not that one) where the point was made that if the only defense you have for saying something is that the first amendment protects your right to do so, you’re basically admitting that your only defense is that it’s isn’t literally illegal to say a particular thing.

In the same way, ‘the law allows me to take all this money meant to feed inmates for personal gain’ might be legally sound(and if so they really need to kill that law), but it does not make his wanton greed and indifference to the plight of others any less disgusting and inhumane.

mik says:

You still have Sherriffs

The idea that an apparently 1st world country still has something as anachronistic as local sheriffs dept where the law officer is voted in is laughable at best. The sooner these podunk ill educated buffoons are trundled back off to jobs more suited to them (village idiot, anti vax campaigner etc) the sooner the USA can move towards a country that is not a bad joke wrapped in a flag.

Organized stalking (user link) says:

This is called organized stalking

This type of malicious prosecution is known as organized gang stalking, and it is made pissible by the absurdity of the hidden gray area of so called counter terrorism and homeland security.

Its a total exploitation of targeted individuals such as this guy, who was likely tracked via Fusion Centers, cell phone pings, social media usage and more.

But despite a well heeled effort by police and NGOs aka community policing to hide these total exploitations of due process, more cases are coming to light that reveal organized gang stalking as a new COINTELPRO/MHCHAOS 2.0

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