Arkansas Judge’s Former Assistant Pleads Guilty to Fraud

This story has now gone viral on the Internet but it started back in July of 2016 when the former courthouse employee was arrested alongside her husband after they were allegedly found in possession of narcotics near the Garland County Courts Building.

The list prepared for the charges at the time detailed more than $346,000 in confirmed or suspected personal expenses over a period of about four years. Legislative auditors began looking into the case because of other discrepancies in handling of county accounts, including an alleged use of money from other county departments to cover credit card charges. That led to the criminal investigation. She was fired last June after almost 12 years of county employment. Her longevity, another employee said, contributed to a lack of checking of some her charging activities.

The criminal information filed in Garland Circuit Court is an epic catalog of expenses on the likes of Razorback tickets, kids’ school lunches, jewelry, car payments, personal real estate & property taxes, a sequin throw pillow, pet insurance, Entergy electric bills, AT&T cellphone bills, hotel gift cards, a diamond bracelet and a tuxedo for her dog.  It was the dog tuxedo paid for by taxpayer dollars that got the attention of news outlets including Fox News and The Washington Post.

Kristi Goss had worked as an administrative assistant for Garland County Judge Rick Davis in Hot Springs, about 45 miles southwest of Little Rock.

Davis released a statement confirming Goss was one of his employees. She was fired June 3, 2016, but left the position a month prior according to a report in The Sentinel-Record.

“The termination process for this employee was initiated according to the steps outlined by counsel from the county attorney and county policy,” Davis said. “I hope for swift justice in this situation and hope a message has been sent to all that any and all misconduct and noncompliance with county policy and the law will not be tolerated, and appropriate actions will always be taken to bring justice.”

Kristi Lyn Goss, 44, was set to stand trial Tuesday on six counts of fraudulent use of a credit card, including two counts involving amounts more than $25,000, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, and four counts involving amounts more than $5,000, punishable by up to 10 years, but opted to plead guilty at a pretrial hearing Monday.

Goss is set to be sentenced Nov. 22, The Sentinel Record reported. A gag order preventing attorneys from speaking publicly about the case will remain in effect until Goss is sentenced.

I won’t go into a long litany of Arkansas fraud but 20 years ago, when I was running for Governor, I mentioned government fraud in a speech to the Arkansas Farm Bureau.   After the speech, I was swarmed with reporters in my Press Room in a Little Rock Hotel.  In addition to local reporters, representatives were there from AP and UPI.

I outlined the story of two employees of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.  The two were building a cabin in north Arkansas for a high ranking executive in the department.  The work was being done during normal work hours and while on the Arkansas government payroll.

So what happens in Arkansas when such fraud is exposed?  Somebody had to be fired, right?  It couldn’t be the high ranking executive, right?  Is it possible his workers were building his cabin on government time and he was oblivious?  You guessed it, the poor workers were dumped and the executive and Arkansas Government lived happily ever after.  I’m sure that was probably the only fraud going on, right?

Although I was a Federal Administrator, I had about a hundred Arkansas State employees who worked for me.  I think the state thought I was nuts because I asked for a few audits from the state to make sure I was running a tight ship.  Most people in my position would have been fearful of a state audit.  When executives get lax and start coming to work late and taking long lunch breaks, it’s hard for them to correct their workers.

Right now, the FBI is investigating unlawful expenditure of state funds and other crimes where at least one indictment has been handed down involving a former state representative.

That’s why I wonder about the Judge and the rest of the employees in the story.  I wonder about the whole state of Arkansas and the whole federal government.  I don’t wonder too much because I don’t live under a rock

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