Tax Collector’s Office employee arrested after audit turns up ‘irregularities’

Melissa Jaudon Bush, 54

A former employee of the St. Johns County Tax Collector’s Office was arrested Friday afternoon following a months-long Sheriff’s Office investigation.

 

Melissa Jaudon Bush, 54, was booked into the St. Johns County jail just before 3 p.m. on a charge of organized scheme to defraud. She was released about two hours later after posting $2,500 bond.

Bush, who had worked as a customer service representative at the Tax Collector’s Officer since 2007, was fired from her job in April after a “random transaction audit” turned up “possible irregularities” that were later determined to be “part of a pattern,” Tax Collector Dennis Hollingsworth said in a news release.

Hollingsworth’s office notified the Sheriff’s Office in April about what their review discovered documents related to the case show.

Bush’s arrest warrant and associated offense report say that the subsequent investigation found that Bush stole $13,433.53 from 593 people by overcharging them for driver’s license, car tag and title transactions and keeping the difference in cash.

Documents show that some of the transactions were captured on video.

According to the offense report, Bush, who worked at the Tax Collector’s Ponte Vedra Beach location, first spoke with a sheriff’s deputy on April 6, the day she was confronted by managers and was told that she was going to be fired.

The deputy said that when he entered the room, after managers had spoken with her, Bush was crying and was said to have admitted to taking the money.

“While preparing to take notes and ask M. Bush questions, she continued spontaneously uttering incriminating statements,” the deputy wrote. “I was unable to ask her anything for a while, due to her crying and confessing to stealing the money.”

According to her arrest warrant, in a June 6 meeting with authorities and her attorney, Bush said that she took the money to support a drug habit and that she “advised she has been conducting these illegal transactions since she has been employed at the St. Johns County Tax Collector’s Office.”

The news release from Hollingsworth’s office said that the incident “prompted a complete review of procedures regarding monetary transactions.”

“Several new measures have been put in place as a result of this discovery, including regular, random audits of customer service representatives tills, random drug screening, automated change machines, enhanced security surveillance and supervisor training,” it went on.

Those who were identified in the investigation as having been overcharged will receive a refund for the overcharged portion of the transaction and the Tax Collector’s Office “will be reimbursed by restitution paid to the State Attorney’s Office,” the release said.

 

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