Special to The Chronicle
An audit report released Tuesday by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury showed several deficiencies in record keeping and handling of seized evidence and money by the Wilson County Sheriff’s Department as part of joint drug and crime tasks forces, which were led by former Deputy John Edwards.
The audit was conducted by the Comptroller’s office last year, investigating records and cases from Jan. 1, 2008 through May 31, 2011, that were handled through the Joint Violent Crimes Task Force, or JVCTF, and Safe Streets Task Force, or SSTF, which were joint operations with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
“We corrected these things last year, moved on and are operating under the policies that they wanted us to implement,” said Sheriff Terry Ashe, who added that deficiencies were a result of Edwards’ criminal actions.
Edwards pled guilty to obstruction of official proceeding and was sentenced on April 27, 2012 to 18 years in prison.
The FBI and TBI requested the audit to aid in their investigation of Edwards’s actions.
According to the audit report, the WCSD exhibited a lack of control over case files, seizures and evidence maintained by the JVCTF. The audit states the task force did not keep a master log of cases worked and some were incomplete or missing.
It is also noted the Lebanon Police Department, which participated in both tasks forces, purchased software on behalf of the task force to track cases, but the software was not maintained by agents assigned to the JVCTF.
In March 2010, a case note indicated multiple bags of cocaine had been confiscated, but the audit points out the evidence was never logged and could not be accounted for.
Also, cash in the amount of $25,908.77 was unaccounted for and $8,800 was deposited by the LPD into their bank account, instead of Wilson County, where it should have gone.
There were also issues with six vehicles that were not properly filed after seizure by the task force.
According to Ashe, Edwards was under the supervision of the FBI and noted everyone in his department was under the impression that the FBI was handling evidence and seizures.
“It was everybody’s understanding here that (the FBI) were overseeing it. They were supposed to handle and oversee evidence and seizures,” Ashe said.
Ashe said there were 60 vehicles seized as a result of the task force and six did not have proper paperwork. He added that Edwards personally handled those six vehicles.
The sheriff also said the task forces seized more than $250,000 and that all but the $25,908.77 was properly handled. Ashe said the $8,800 was turned over to the Wilson County Trustee’s office after the audit, per state law.
After the audit was conducted, Ashe said he issued a 48-page response to the findings, which included the implementation of new record-keeping policies as instructed by the auditors.
“The vast majority of (Edwards’s) serious misconduct took place while he was under FBI supervision,” Ashe wrote in the summarized response in the audit report.
According to the audit report, the WCSD and the FBI had an agreement in place for the JVCTF that referenced FBI participation, “however the FBI did not sign this agreement.”
Also, the WCSD entered in an agreement with the FBI on June 25, 2009, to participate in the SSTF. The WCSD and LPD entered into an agreement on June 30, 2009 to participate in the JVCTF.
“We’ve corrected all of these issues and have moved on from this,” Ashe said. “Audit findings are a positive thing, and these were the actions of a man who acted alone, betrayed the badge and is serving 18 years for his crimes.”