An Alabama sheriff helped himself to at least $1.5 million in federal funds meant to feed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees housed in his jail, the Etowah County Detention Center, according to an investigation by AL.com.
A Depression-era loophole in Alabama state law allows sheriffs to keep half of all leftover funds meant for feeding inmates, with the other half going to the county’s general fund. By serving ICE detainees spoiled, expired, and donated food, Etowah County sheriff Todd Entrekin was able to generate a $3 million surplus, taking 50% of that for himself.
“This is a jail, this is not a bed and breakfast,” Entrekin said earlier this year. “Domino’s does not deliver here…but we do prepare a healthy meal that is served here three times a day. It is true that many of our people are not happy with the food they are served.”
In March, Entrekin admitted to having pocketed more than $750,000 over three years in money meant to feed inmates entrusted to his care by the US government at the same detention center. However, he has long maintained that it’s all perfectly above board.
“The law says it’s a personal account and that’s the way I’ve always done it and that’s the way the law reads and that’s the way I do business,” Entrekin said in an interview. “That’s the way the law’s written.”
Even if Entrekin’s scheme is technically legal, Randall Eliason, a law professor and former chief of the public corruption and government fraud section at the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, told AL.com: “There’s pretty much no way that the federal government is OK with this.”
Entrekin’s constituency has already spoken. In June, he lost his re-election campaign to a fellow Republican primary challenger. In July, the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation on charges that Entrekin allegedly had sex with underage girls multiple times during the 1990s, an allegation he denies.
Entrekin has reportedly gone after those who got between him and his money. Last February, a 20-year-old was arrested for drug possession four days after criticizing Entrekin in an interview in which he said the sheriff had paid him to mow the lawn at his home in 2015 with checks that said “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account” on them.
The following month, Entrekin held a news conference during which he claimed he and his wife had been the victims of “fake news stories,” and said he was there to “set the record straight.”