On The Money Investigation: California’s Missing Millions

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A CBS13 investigation reveals that at least than one million dollars in state property is missing, but the state agencies can’t seem to find it.

You should care — you paid for it.

The California Highway Patrol knows how to track down criminals but they can’t seem to find some of their own property. The missing property includes two desktop computers worth more than $28,000, 21 laptop computer which are also valued around $28,000.

All totalled $153,000 worth of CHP property is missing, equipment that you paid for.

“I just think it’s a typical example of how broke our system is,” says one tax payer we talked to.

But there’s more — three plasma monitors costing a total of $17,000 are missing from Caltrans. Two digital video recorders from the DMV costing a total of $38,000 have vanished.

And a solar turbine worth $11,000 and once in the hands of the state Department of General Services is gone. And that’s just the beginning.

Our investigation initially found that for three years, from 2008 to 2011, two and a half million dollars worth of various items have just disappeared from 15 state agencies.

“Wow, that’s a lot of money,” says Holly Anderson who’s a taxpayer from Saratoga. “That’s crazy.”

Most of that, 1.8 million dollars worth of stuff, is listed as missing from one state agency — the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. In all more than 1,300 items gone, either lost or stolen, from the CDCR alone – a $10,000 food mixer, an $11,000 freezer, and an $8,600 refrigerator.

CBS13 anchor & reporter Sam Shane questioned Eric Lamoureaux, a spokesman for the Department of General Services.

Reporter: A $63,000 amplifier. Is that missing? ‘Cuz you told us that’s missing.
Lamoureaux: It is missing, yeah.
Reporter: Where is that?
Lamoureaux: Corrections doesn’t know where it is.

And the people who run the CDCR also appear to have lost track of some very expensive chairs for which taxpayers paid more than $26,000 each, the cost of a brand new car.

Reporter: Four chairs worth $26,000 each are missing. Where are they?
Lamoureaux: Well if they weren’t missing we would be able to account for that on the form.
Reporter: You don’t know?
Lamoureaux: If they’re missing they’re accounted for as missing and staff will make continuing efforts to try to find it.

Lamoureaux later told us those missing chairs are dentist chairs.

“Well, I’m shocked,” said Lew Uhler, a tax payer advocate with the National Tax Limitation Committee.

We showed the long list of missing items to Mr. Uhler.

“An expensive screwdriver; $127,” notes Uhler, a former member of Governor Ronald Reagan’s administration. “We have more breaches in the dam than we thought.”

Tax payers visiting the capitol were stunned and frustrated when we told them about the apparent missing millions.

“It’s amazing that that amount of money can be lost,” said shocked San Jose resident Mark Giansiracusa.

Thomas Mulder reacted by saying “Wow! That’s not good, not good at all.”

And as we dug deeper we discovered another glaring problem.

“Many wheelchairs reported as lost, they aren’t lost,” said Lamoureaux.

The CDCR listed 130 wheelchairs as missing but when we showed up for this interview that changed.

Reporter: So none of the wheelchairs that they listed as missing are missing?
Lamoureaux: Correct.
Reporter: How does this happen?
Lamoureaux: Well, again, it’s improper accounting.

And it happened a lot. One the of missing items listed by the CDCR was a $415,000 x-ray machine.

Reporter: There’s an x-ray machine worth $415,000. Where is it?
Lamoureaux: It’s not missing.
Reporter: It’s not missing? It says here it’s missing?
Lamoureaux: It does and again it gets back to some of the discoveries we’ve made while working with your station.

They listed a $66,000 telephone system as missing and then told us this.

Reporter: How do you loose a $66,000 telephone system?
Lamoureaux: It wasn’t lost.
Reporter: So that’s not missing?
Lamoureaux: That’s not missing.

Also shown as missing were 11 handheld metal detectors, a $4,800 night seeing device, and six security booths. Over at the DMV they listed a $19,000 surveillance system as missing, then told us this.

Reporter: A surveillance system at DMV – $19 thousand dollars?
Lamoureaux: Yeah, that item is not missing.

And remember those four dentist chairs worth $26,000 each that are listed as missing? Guess what?

After we started asking questions they told us they found them. Governor Brown’s administation blames sloppy bookkeeping. But no one really knows for sure.

Reporter: Is this just sloppy bookkeeping or what’s going on?
Lamoureaux: Absolutely sloppy bookkeeping. And we need to improve not only the bookkeeping but continue to look at the procedures that state agencies are required to follow.

Millions of dollars worth of stuff is listed as lost or stolen – missing. Tax payer advocate Uhler says that must change.

“Was there a break in? Was this done by somebody outside or is this an inside job? And if it’s an inside job and there is no investigative procedure established, that is an outrage.”

Lamoureux says “We’re convinced that we need to tighten the controls.”

As a result of our investigation the Brown administration sent out a memo (.doc) to every state agency demanding better accounting procedures. Until now there has been no audit and no investigation.

It’s an impromptu reminder to keep track of property and missing items that include an $18,000 boat stolen from the Department of Boating and Waterways.

“Well obviously there’s not a lot accountability,” says Susie Sherer, a tax payer from Exeter. “And I think that’s something we defnitely need to start working on.”

Reporter: But do you think, in the private sector, that they would tolerate this? That people would be allowed to work in a company?
Lamoureux: Well, we don’t tolerate it at the state level.
Reporter: But you have. It’s going on; nobody’s been fired or suspended.
Lamoureux: Well it is occurring and unfortunately in an organization this large there is gonna be some level of loss that occurs.

California has no central database for reporting lost, stolen or missing state property, unlike some states like Texas.

Each California agency keeps its own records.

More from Sam Shane
  • Angela

    I wish the news would stop making it sound like State workers don’t pay taxes! They pay taxes just like the rest of the working population. Tired of them always making a point of asking “tax payers” how they feel about the state as if state workers themselves don’t PAY TAXES!

    • Tom

      Angela you may pay taxes but lets get this straight you don’t earn your money you have 10 people doing the job of 1 most of you do not know the def of hard work. OOOH ! wait hard work by the water bottle eating doughnuts . you all aree way over paid.

      • Ted

        Yeah right, where I work when I started 5 years ago there were 4 people doing the job, today there is only me, workload hasn’t changed, pay either. Oh and yeah most of what we used to do helping the public just isn’t getting done any more.

    • pjsfolleys

      They never said that state workers don’t pay taxes. They are saying that millions of dollars of equipment is unaccounted for and no one at the upper level is accountable. I point of the story is sloppy accounting, theft or both.

    • nothingchanges

      Well Angela….Sound like the state workers are stealing and costing tax payers more money. This is what happens when the state hires by skin color instead of intelligence and honesty. Social engineering at its best.

  • Mars

    This warrants an outside investigation. Reminds me of the City of Bell story only on a bigger level. When I hear stories like this, it ticks me off. Why should I feel good about paying taxes to this state when there’s no accountability, no responsibility and no intelligence in Sacramento. This really angers me. Maybe I won’t file anymore taxes and then I can get three hots and a cot, paid for by the state.

  • Jennifer

    This is dumb. Major corporations significantly smaller than the State lose more than what you’re talking about annually. And to simplify it down to ‘no one has been fired or suspended?’ California labor law doesn’t allow a company, let alone the State to just fire people because of bad accounting. There are elaborate steps in any corrective action process. But nice job being sensationalistic. A million dollars in NOTHING, in the grand scheme of what we need to run the state.

    • ed

      Showing your ignorance a little? I’ve worked for two different large corporations, each of which was the third largest corporation in its industry in the world, and when big ticket items went missing people got fired. In fact, for one of the two corporations, when stuff went missing, even small stuff costing less than $1k, the thief was given ten years in federal prison. At both corporations, the culprits hoped that the missing items would be written off as bad accounting. So as I said, showing a little ignorance?

    • Wak-A-Do-Central

      um….no they don’t – clearly you don’t work for MAJOR corporation. office supplies go missing, an occasional chair, and even a laptop or two…but you can bet your overstuffed state salary as a paperclip control officer if something cost more than a couple of thousand dollars it is generally used frequently and a MAJOR corporation will notice if it goes missing. things “go missing” when they aren’t used, our state government generally buys things when they aren’t needed and when they aren’t used they’ll go missing.

      • offramp

        um,, no they don’t. I’ve worked for several major corporations that came up “missing” big and small ticket items. Hmmm, but the bosses never let on too much, because it would make them look bad. The State is a 100 billion dollar a year operation. You don’t think that finding $1 million (which is what is still missing) isn’t inevitabel for an organization that size? Why aren’t you as enraged about companies like Sutter over spending on their latest hospital by a quarter of a billion dollars?! You don’t thik that you will pay a part of that in the end with increased health care costs?

  • a. e. pecci

    Just watched this story and I found your editorializing appalling. You made4 it into an anti-Brown political ad. Regardless of the validity of the claim of $2.5 million in missing equipment, you’ve distroyed any confidence I had that your reporting is unbiased. I will not be watching your “news” anymore.

    • redneckresearch

      You must be a state employee a. e. pecci, who cares if you do not watch investigating report results so long here is the door, good by, toodleloo. Thefts of any kind are punishable jennifer do you really believe it is ok to steal equipment from a business. Open the prison gates let all the thieves out. Any private company will fire any bad accounting employees or they would go out of business. California is all most out of money because of all this criminal activity the goose that has been laying them thar golden eggs just died.

      • Wine Guy

        Huh? Other than you abhorrent lack of correct grammar and spelling, what the heck IS your point? The article really doesn’t talk about theft. The article really makes no mention of “prisoners” or “opening prison gates. The article really mentions nothing about “criminal activity”. And no where in the article are any geese mentioned. Hey, do you work for AFLAC?

  • JMHO

    “A CBS13 investigation reveals that at least than one million dollars in state property is missing, but the state agencies can’t seem to find it.”

    LOL LOL LOL Of course the state agencies can’t find the missing property; that’s why it’s MISSING. D’oh!

  • JMHO

    You actually went and interviewed a taxpayer just to get this quote: “Wow, that’s a lot of money…..That’s crazy.” Wow, what an important contribution to this article.

  • redneckresearch

    Thanks, if ya look a little deeper you no doubt will find two unmarked police cars and a unmarked pickup missing. Of course these are all inside thefts who else would have access to any of them. After government officials stole millions of tax payers dollars for a worthless lot down south so that one (or more)could become rich and got away with it they will commit any crime and get away with it if not stopped, this has nothing to do with Governor Brown. I’ll bet alot of this stolen property was used to start on the side businesses, alot of government employees got stolen computers, this is awful, keep digging. Gads theft supporters on this site.

  • Tom

    Come on folks there is no way these items cost this much prices way over blown .

  • HamnEggs

    I found it very interesting that the story went from “lost or stolen millions” to “found.” — the more Shane asked questions, the more viewers could feel the breeze of the air being let out of his balloon. If most of this stuff is indeed accounted for, where’s the there, there in this story? I wonder of Channel 13 hasn’t lost a computer or a video machine over the years. Sheesh.

    Also, not a word mentioned about lost firearms during the story. Did 13 use the image because there were lost guns, or, just to hype this story? Most likely, the latter. Shameful.

  • leroy

    I lost my keys the other day then i found them then you guest it lost them again

  • Bill Monroe

    Does anyone think that two desktop computers for $28,000 is kind of high? On top of that what kind of data was lost? If the price of $14,000 is “competitive” then the data stored on there was very valuable. THAT should be disconcerting.

    • Radio Guy

      Yes, that is awfully high, unless they are not really desktop computers but computers outfitted with special hardware and software for a communications console. And if they are really communications equipment, they were probably lost at the DGS Telecom warehouse. . .

  • offramp

    Shame on you Shane, for a sham story, full of melodrama but no substance. All that time and resources digging for dirt and coming away with a gilt framed fly speck.

  • Wine Guy

    “A CBS13 investigation reveals that at least than one million dollars in state property is missing, but the state agencies can’t seem to find it.”

    Well, if they could find it, it wouldn’t be missing now, would it?

  • rmcsticks

    This hole story is BS , I want to SEE everything that was said to be missing brought out for the public to see. and those that said it’s not missing fired if it is missing ….

    • Mary Pitman

      If they could bring it out for you to see it, it wouldn’t be missing.

  • jackie

    OK Wine Guy all that expensive high tech equipment missing and it is not thievery then what is it. Do you think it is justice to put common every day thiefs in prison and let government employee thiefs be freen now come on that is discriminaltion we cannot have that. I was going to try out for the AFLAC duck voice but decided to go with friends to Red Hawk instead.

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