Two former employees of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, including a former senior administrative official at the department, were arrested this week after allegedly using gift cards that were owned by the state for personal use.
Jarrod Ravencraft, former public affairs director at MDOT, and Selena Standifer, former deputy public affairs director at MDOT, were indicted in Hinds County earlier this month on embezzlement charges following a months-long investigation by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office.
Ravencraft, 49, is accused of converting to his own use more than $10,000 in gift cards between June 2017 through March 2018 while employed by MDOT. He turned himself in to authorities on Wednesday. If convicted, he could serve up to 20 years in prison.
Standifer, 40, is accused of converting to her own use more than $1,000 in gift cards in December 2015 while employed by MDOT. Standifer was arrested on Friday and is out of jail on bond. If convicted, she would serve up to 20 years in prison.
The attorney general’s investigation centered on gift cards that were to be distributed to Mississippi public schools as a reward for completion of an MDOT safety education program, according to several people close to the investigation.
The MDOT public affairs department, which is responsible for the agency’s advertising, public messaging and public relations, oversaw the distribution of the gift cards, according to the indictments.
MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath said in a Wednesday statement that when the department discovered evidence of financial misconduct, leaders of the department initiated an internal review.
“As a result of the review, MDOT contacted the Mississippi Attorney General’s office and turned over all evidence collected to this point,” McGrath said in the statement. “The AG’s office reviewed the evidence and conducted an investigation to determine the severity and extent of the violations. The AG’s investigation led to a grand jury indictment of two former employees.”
McGrath’s statement continued: “MDOT has cooperated fully with the AG’s investigators. MDOT takes this very seriously and has reviewed and strengthened internal controls to deter this type of misconduct from happening in the future. MDOT appreciates the swift and thorough investigation by the AG’s office and willingness to see this investigation through to an indictment.”
Ravencraft left MDOT abruptly in July 2018. Hinds County court records show that Ravencraft has been the plaintiff in three lawsuits since 2009, including two eviction suits and one debt collection suit.