Brickbat: You Gonna Eat That?


David Abston, sheriff of Pickens County, Alabama, since 1987, has pleaded guilty to one count each of wire fraud and filing a false tax return. According to federal prosecutors, Abston defrauded the West Alabama Food Bank and the Highland Baptist Church of Gordo to reduce his jail food cost so he could keep more of the jail's food money. Until last year, the state allowed sheriffs to personally pocket any money budgeted for food they did not spend.

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  1. …the state allowed sheriffs to personally pocket any money budgeted for food they did not spend.

    Which, of course, made perfect sense.

    1. I kind of like it!

      You get your corruption right up on the surface. No need to hide it when it is built right into the law. Kind of like asset forfeiture laws.

    2. Sheesh, Fist — Do you expect sheriffs to pocket uneaten food?!

    3. let them eat spackle!!!

      1. The sheriff certainly acts like a paste-eater…

    4. I don’t remember if it was Alabama or another state, but there were stories about this (sheriffs allowed to pocket unused state money earmarked for feeding county jail inmates) on The Watch. One sheriff had been relieved of the need to spend $0.01 out of the state money because the county board had contracted a private company to cater jail inmate meals using county tax money.

  2. The guy was sheriff since 1987? I guess term limits are not a thing.

    1. For get it Inigo, it’s Alabama .

    2. Term limits are generally the exception, not the rule

  3. Between 2014 and 2018, the indictment says Abston wrote more than $80,000 in checks from his own bank account to the church food pantry bank account, and wrote more than $80,000 in checks from the food pantry bank account to WAFB in exchange for food.

    According to the indictment, Abston used a significant portion of that food to feed inmates in the Pickens County Jail.

    I am not following this one.

    The article says he contributed $80,000 from his own bank account to the food bank via the church account. He use that money for food. The implication being that he used $80,000 of his own money to buy food for the jail inmates.

    That seems kind of backwards for a conspiracy to defraud.

    Perhaps the author of the story got confused? The Salient number that is missing is, how much did the sheriff pocket from jail funds? I suppose if he was able to buy food from the food bank for half the price that he was able to buy it through the County’s procurement process he could be saving on buying the food and pocketing the difference. But the article doesn’t explain any of that. As written, it seems to say that he has spent $80,000 of his own money to feed inmates at the jail and is going to have to pay a quarter million dollar fine and do prison time for the effort.

    Clicking through to the District Attorney’s press release, it doesn’t appear to be the journalist’s fault. The article is cut and paste from the press release.

    So either I am completely misunderstanding something or this makes no sense at all. As written, it says that he spent $80,000 of his own money through two charitable shell accounts to feed inmates at the jail. How in the world does that mean that he defrauded them?

    1. The food money goes to the Sheriff’s personal account, as does all the pistol permit fees. Alabama sheriff’s are basically elected mob bosses with badges & guns.

      1. Yeah, I get that part. But the allegation is that he spent $80,000 of his own money to buy food for the jail. It says he wrote checks to the charity and then the charity bought food from another charity. I don’t see how that profits him.

        You could say that he profits if buying food for inmates at the jail should not be the proper function of a charitable organization. And since his application for charitable status for the food bank did not include feeding prisoners, if he takes a deduction for that $80,000 you might be able to argue that he is committing tax fraud.

        Except for the article seems to say that he did not file taxes. Which makes this the dumbest tax Dodge in history.

        1. Any way you stack it up, if you take your own money and buy food for the jail and then get to keep whatever money that was budgeted for food for yourself, it should come out as a wash. Unless the food he was buying with the $80,000 is substantially cheaper than the food that he can buy through the county procurement process. But I really doubt it could be that much cheaper, because they do not buy quality food at Great expense for jails. If I remember correctly, they tend to budget something like a buck and a half a day for inmate food. Maybe up to $4.75 at those really fancy jails. It is going to be hard to even meet that pricing, let alone undercut it.

          1. The point is, it did not come out as a wash for the food bank. It wasn’t as blatant as, say, getting $100,000 for food and only spending $80,000 of it – which apparently would be legal under Alabama law! But somehow he got the food bank to spend more than he paid…

            1. Correct, he’s not being prosecuted for pocketing the state meal money, which was legal until recently, he’s being prosecuted for defrauding the food bank.

    2. Maybe he is really facing charges for being a terrible criminal?

  4. Rats! Now my stock in the Acme Little Giant Grits and Gruel Company is going to tank.

    1. I’m taking a short position in ACLG&G…I expect to clear pennies on the dollar…

      1. that should have been ALGG&G…I do not own or expect to own any ACLG&G stock…for the record

  5. Pickens County Sheriff David Abston, who held office in the rural west Alabama county for more than three decades, agreed to plead guilty to fraud and filing a false tax return, court records show.

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