Two former employees found guilty of stealing city funds

Two former employees found guilty of stealing city funds

By Chris Teale (File photo)

A former Alexandria Fire Department employee will be sentenced next May after being found guilty last Thursday in circuit court of laundering $186,000 in city funds.

Monique Jackson Asante, 39, pleaded guilty to a charge of money laundering during a brief hearing before Judge Nolan Dawkins after her defense attorneys reached a plea agreement with city prosecutors.

Under the terms of the agreement, prosecutors said they would ask that Dawkins sentence Jackson Asante to a maximum of two years in prison. The maximum penalty for money laundering is 40 years. The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation be undertaken immediately by the city probation office.

Courts order pre-sentence investigations for those convicted of serious crimes, and includes an interview with a
defendant, a review of their criminal record and a review of the facts of the crime. The PSI also makes a recommendation to the court on the length and type of sentence.

Jackson Asante will be sentenced on May 11, 2017, per the terms of the plea agreement.

Another former city employee was sentenced on August 18 to five years in prison with all but three months suspended on one felony count of embezzlement after stealing gift cards from a city program. Ada Ferrufino’s sentence is conditioned on three years of supervised probation, five years of good behavior, payment of court costs and restitution of $3,270.

City spokesman Craig Fifer said in a statement that in October 2015, an employee of the city department of community and human services reported the theft of gift cards from an office at 2525 Mount Vernon Ave. The gift cards had been donated to the Fund for Alexandria’s Child to provide activities for children and families receiving city services.

A criminal investigation by the Alexandria Police Department linked Ferrufino to the theft of gift cards, as well as a previously unsolved theft in December 2014. Ferrufino resigned from city staff on November 10, 2015, and based on her conviction in this case, she will not be entitled to receive a public pension.

Fifer said as a result of an internal review, the city has strengthened policies regarding how gift cards are received, tracked, secured and released.

For the prosecution of Jackson Asante, senior assistant commonwealth’s attorney David Lord said that had the case continued, he would have shown that the defendant facilitated the submission and payment of fraudulent invoices for training supplies in a scheme that lasted from January 12, 2010 until January 21, 2016.

Lord said city police were alerted to the scheme earlier this year by Jackson Asante’s former friend, whom the defendant instructed to cash a city check and give her a cut of the profits. Lord said Jackson Asante laundered a total of $186,000 in city funds.

Defense attorney Timothy Ward of the Woodbridge and Fairfax-based Banks & Associates law firm did not respond to Lord’s statements. When the indictment was handed down by a grand jury in July, Fifer said Jackson Asante had cooperated with the police department’s criminal investigation and an internal investigation by the city’s office of internal audit.

John Zwerling, a partner at the Zwerling/Citronberg, PLLC, a criminal defense law firm in Alexandria that defends against money laundering among other charges but is not involved in this case, said at the time that cooperation could work in the accused’s favor.

“It shows acceptance of responsibility,” Zwerling said. “Usually it also shows remorse and sometimes just resignation to the fact that they’ve been caught.”

According to her public LinkedIn profile, Jackson Asante worked as a city staffer since 1996, first as a company secretary at the city’s methadone clinic, then as a secretary and an executive secretary supporting the city’s office on women.

She joined the fire department in 2007 as a fire training administrative analyst. Since her employment with the city was terminated in February, she has worked as a home health aide in Prince William County and as an executive administrative assistant at the Marriott International hotel company.

Fifer said after her indictment that as a result of the internal investigation, the city is improving its financial controls, increasing audit frequency and strengthening approval processes. The Alexandria Fire Department also is providing additional ethics and fiscal management training to administrators, managers and officers.

The city also has engaged a third-party auditing firm, Fifer said, to conduct a review of internal financial controls beyond the annual reviews normally conducted by internal and external auditors, while disciplinary action has been taken against other city employees who failed to provide appropriate oversight.

“Even though our independent annual audits have found our internal controls to be sufficient, this firm will help determine where our controls should be adjusted to minimize the risk of misconduct in the future,” Fifer said at the time.