County Sheriff Reportedly Allowed To Keep $1.5 Million in Illegal Immigrant Funding
To state the obvious, $1.5 million is nowhere near the $5 billion that President Donald Trump has requested for his border wall.
And it’s exceedingly likely that an additional $1.5 million would’ve done nothing to avert the ongoing government shutdown.
But even given all of that, it’s certainly curious to witness a public official personally pocket $1.5 million from money meant to help fund illegal immigrant incarceration.
According to records obtained by AL.com, Alabama’s Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin, a Republican, personally kept over $1.5 million of money that was budgeted for jail food at Etowah County Detention Center under a federal immigrant-detention contract.
As AL.com notes, the “detention center has a federal contract to incarcerate hundreds of undocumented immigrants who face lengthy legal battles over their immigration status and alleged crimes.” On average, the jail houses 850 inmates, of whom about 300 are illegal immigrant detainees.
The controversy for Entrekin stems from the fact that, at a news conference earlier this year, the sheriff admitted to keeping far less money than records indicated.
Entrekin, whose annual sheriff’s salary is reportedly $93,178.80, claimed to have kept over $750,000 between January 2015 and December 2017.
“Hundreds of pages of county and sheriff’s office records,” as AL.com describes it, show that he kept more than double that amount.
Entrekin had clearly enjoyed quite a bit of wealth through the federal immigrant-detention contract. Of note, Entrekin’s is the only jail in Alabama with such an agreement and houses illegal immigrant detainees.
Beginning in October 2011, the surplus from feeding the inmates at the detention center was over $3 million. According to the aforementioned documents, half went to Entrekin and the other half went to the county’s general fund.
And just in case anyone thought that it might be a clerical error of some sort, AL.com got a pretty direct response from the Etowah County chief financial officer.
“The check has always been made out to him as sheriff,” said Kevin Dollar.
The legality of what Entrekin, who lost his bid for re-election earlier this year, did is murky, according to the AL.com report.
On the one hand, Entrekin and other Alabama sheriffs have long cited a Depression-era state law that allows them to keep surplus state jail food funds, AL.com reported.
On the other hand, lawyers and legal experts told the outlet that Entrekin seems to have broken numerous laws by keeping and using the money. A separate AL.com report shows that Entrekin bought a $740,000 beach house after pocketing about $750,000 in surplus funds. Entrekin reportedly blames that AL.com report for why he lost his bid for re-election in a June GOP primary.
Here’s my story on Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin, aka the “Beach House Sheriff,” losing just now in the primary for the seat he currently holds https://t.co/DXtETcWLaJ
— Connor Sheets (@ConnorASheets) June 6, 2018
“There’s pretty much no way that the federal government is OK with this,” George Washington University Law School professor Randall Eliason told AL.com.
“Regardless of what he argues about the Alabama law, if it comes to light that he’s taking these federal funds that are supposed to be used to feed and house federal prisoners, and instead is putting (hundreds of thousands of) dollars in his pocket, that would be of great interest to federal prosecutors.”
Eliason has also previously served as chief of the public corruption and government fraud section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.
“There are multiple statutes that could be used, but the specific statute doesn’t matter that much,” he said. “The nature of the crime is theft from government.”
Legal or not, this type of frivolous federal spending seems particularly damning while the government is shut down.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.