Sheriff busted stealing funds for prison meals, buys $750K beach house

Alabama sheriffs claim obscure law allows them to starve prisoners and legally pocket the gains.

A lawsuit filed by Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is forcing 49 Sheriffs to disclose records of money they pocketed from taxpayer funds meant to feed prisoners. A look at just one of these Southern Gentlemen reveals a special level of greed, hubris and unchecked abuse.

Republican Sheriff Todd Entrekin pocketed $750,000 just last year, money meant to feed prisoners in his care, and used it to buy a fancy beach house. Sheriff Entrekin and his wife Karen just landed the fancy house in upscale Orange Beach Alabama, bringing their total real estate holdings to 1.7 million on just his $93,178 a year salary.

The Sheriff paid his landscaper with checks labeled ‘Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account.’

"I saw that in the corner of the checks it said Food Provision, and a couple people I knew came through the jail, and they say they got meat maybe once a month and every other day it was just beans and vegetables. I put two and two together and realized that that money could have gone toward some meat or something," said Matt Qualls who was paid to mow the Sheriff’s lawns and landscape for the Sheriff’s parents in 2015.

After press started snooping, the Good Sheriff updated his blank ethics forms for the previous three years to reflect “more than $250,000” that he pocketed from the prison food fund. He is not legally obligated to disclose the exact amount. This money was disbursed by federal, state and municipal governments to feed the prisoners in the Sheriff’s care, but wound up in his sweaty khaki pocket, legally.

In an email to local news outlet AL.com the Sheriff said, “we utilize a registered dietitian to ensure adequate meals are provided daily...Alabama law is clear as to my personal financial responsibilities in the feeding of inmates. Regardless of one's opinion of this statute, until the legislature acts otherwise, the Sheriff must follow the current law." He is referring to a pre WWII Alabama law that many Sheriffs claim gives them free reign to pocket extra prison food funds. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say otherwise, and point out what a dangerous practice this is to give Sheriffs financial incentive to starve prisoners in their care.

In Sheriff Entrekin’s case, he has even avoided purchasing trays and cafeteria supplies from the food fund, keeping even more money for himself while further burdening taxpayers. "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," the Sheriff said in a phone interview with AL.com. "That's the way the law's written." PS This year he got a nice campaign contribution from the tray supplier, and the prison phone provider, and the prison labor recipients.

By Being Liberal contributor: Sarah Ficca

For more read, "Etowah sheriff pockets $750k in jail food funds, buys $740k beach house" by Connor Sheets for Alabama AL.com March 13, 2018.