Police charge former city employee accused of stealing thousands from mentally ill

Nearly two months after the Virginia Beach auditor accused a city social worker of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from mentally ill clients, police have charged a woman in the case.

Janel Jones, 37, of Newport News faces one count of felony credit card theft related to an incident that took place between March 2014 and May 2014, police spokeswoman Tonya Pierce said. She would not say if more charges are expected but said the investigation continues.

Jones was hired in 2003 and worked in the Human Services Department’s Supportive Living Program, which helps Beach residents with intellectual disabilities cope with everyday life and financial matters. She had a salary of $38,842.08, according to a city spokesman.

Between 2011 and 2015, more than $50,000 was taken from seven clients enrolled in that program, according the audit. Most of it, the audit says, was taken by an employee who made checks payable to herself and to “cash.”

The audit does not name the employee, but Pierce confirmed Jones is the unnamed worker in it.

The audit said she also made undocumented withdrawals from ATMs and at bank counters, purchased groceries and personal items — including clothes, appliances and trips — and made other fraudulent transactions.

She took more than $24,000 from one client and more than $15,000 from another, the audit says. When confronted with that accusation, Jones resigned and admitted wrongdoing, according to the audit.

The City Council recently approved a second audit — one of the largest in its history — to prevent further thefts. That audit, which will begin soon, will look at every receipt and employee who handles money in the city’s Human Services Department, which operates the Supportive Living Program.

It could take more than half a year to complete and will likely require outside help.

The first audit said a lack of supervision and safeguards allowed the thefts to occur. In one case, a supervisor tried to create documents that should have already existed when City Auditor Lyndon Remias pressed for them.

The audit also said the Up Center, which was contracted to help some clients, was responsible for an additional missing $11,000. It said the center failed to maintain records, to obtain receipts before paying out, or to follow up on requested funds that were not used.

Pierce declined to say if further arrests were coming. Jones is scheduled for an arraignment on Monday.

The audit said two other city employees were suspended but did not say why.

The city’s contract with the Up Center is being reviewed, and the auditor made more than 26 recommendations to prevent further thefts, the audit said.

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