Historic City News has learned that 593 St Johns County taxpayers became victims of a scheme to defraud that originated within the offices of the St. Johns County Tax Collector, Dennis W. Hollingsworth, CFC.
A former Customer Service Representative, 54-year-old Melissa Jaudon Bush, who was employed by Hollingsworth from December 2007 to April 2017, illegally accumulated a total of $13,433.53 before she was caught.
“Our office learned of possible irregularities during a random transaction audit,” Hollingsworth said. “Upon further investigation, it was determined that the perceived discrepancy was part of a pattern.”
Because the amount of property obtained has an aggregate value of less than $20,000, the violator is guilty of a felony of the third degree.
“We immediately terminated the employee, launched a full investigation internally, and advised both the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s office,” Hollingsworth told reporters. “All victims identified in the investigation will receive a complete refund for any portion of their transaction that was fraudulently overcharged.”
According to Hollingsworth, the tax collector’s office has long had in place procedures to audit tag, title, driver license and tax documentation, as well as financial reviews. Several new measures have been put in place as a result of this discovery, including regular, random audits of cash tills of customer service representatives, random drug screening, automated change machines, enhanced security surveillance, and supervisor training.
Bush, who resides at 115 Arredondo Avenue, was arrested, charged with the in use of communications technology furtherance of a scheme to defraud, and booked into the St Johns County Detention Facility at 2:53 p.m. today; then, released two hours later after posting $2,500 bond.