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State agency paid alleged fraud claims to pastor after told of investigation

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Posted: Mar 17, 2011 11:02 PM by Ashley Rodrigue
Updated: Mar 17, 2011 11:02 PM
Source: WBRZ

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Topics: GOHSEP, Baton Rouge, Baker, Ricky Sinclair, Miracle Place, investigation, Inspector General

BATON ROUGE- An area pastor is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars after Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav.

But an Inspector General's report also found at least one state agency knew about the alleged fraud and kept paying thousands of your money.

Ricky Sinclair runs Miracle Place Church in Baker. He does not face criminal charges, but the I.G.'s report has been turned over to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The report claims Sinclair filed bogus FEMA disaster documents for more workers than he had and said he paid them more than he was paying.

The report shows that two workers at the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness were told about the investigation six months apart.

But the workers say in a response to the report that they were unaware the investigation was A solid and were told not to tell anyone, so the claims from Miracle Place continued on into $250,000 worth of checks.

But in GOHSEP's response to the I.G.'s report, Director Mark Cooper says he believe the policies in place, which include a legislative auditor in-house, work, without a change, as long as everyone does what they're supposed to do. All other agencies and organizations involved in the investigation reported changes to their policies following the report.

Cooper said, "We feel like they're appropriate for now, but, we continue to look at them and with this specific instance, one thing that has changed, we're going to emphasize even more during the training, when we train our employees, that again, when you even suspect, or there's even an inkling that there could be fraud, to make sure you let your chain of command know."

GOSHEP was able to get the money back for the questionable Gustav claims and says disciplinary action has been taken for the two workers involved in the report's claims.

The church declined to comment for this follow-up on behalf of the pastor and its members and sticks by the statement issued yesterday that the accusations are untrue.

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