April 12, 2016
FRANKLINTON—Capriece Dawson, 43, a former Franklinton town clerk, was sentenced Friday (April 8) to serve five years in prison and 10 years of probation upon her release for stealing money that resulted in losses of more than $115,000 to the town. A jury convicted Dawson in February of theft over $1,500 and malfeasance in office for the scheme.
District Judge Richard A. Swartz, Jr., suspended five of the 10 years he imposed on Dawson for the theft charge and also sentenced her to five years of probation. Swartz suspended Dawson’s five-year prison sentence on the malfeasance charge, but he added five more years of probation. The sentences on both charges are to be served consecutively. Dawson also was ordered to pay restitution (the amount has yet to be determined) during her 10 years of probation. If her probation is ever revoked, she could be ordered to serve the 10 years that have been suspended.
Customer complaints about irregular billing and payment accountability at Franklinton’s Water Department prompted the initial investigation by the town, which discovered problems and brought in state auditors. A state legislative audit in 2014 determined that another former clerk, Carmen Freeman, and Dawson did not follow proper billing procedures and misappropriated thousands of dollars. Both women initially admitted to auditors that they “borrowed” from customer utility collections for their own personal gain. But Dawson recanted that admission during the trial.
The Louisiana State Police also conducted an investigation. The town clerk examined records back to 2011 and found that the two employees would not credit payments to the accounts made by cash-paying customers and re-collected from the same customers. The women also altered bills to charge customers more than was actually owed, and they presumably pocketed the rest. Prosecutors had to prove only that Dawson stole more than $1,500, but they argued that losses to the town were greater than $115,000.