Officials: Systems in place caught theft of $343K set for poor

INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WISH) — Federal agents arrested Center Township’s former chief financial officer on Tuesday on charges alleging he spent nearly $344,000 in money meant for Indianapolis’ poor to buy his home, a pickup truck and jewelry.

Alan Mizen was taken into custody at his Zionsville home and was released without bond after making an initial appearance in federal court in Indianapolis, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Brad Blackington, the lead prosecutor on the case. He is charged with embezzling federal program funds and could face up to 10 years in prison.

“Any time a public servant is caught doing something inappropriate, it’s a sad day for those of us who serve in government,” Delaware Township Trustee Debbie Driskall said Wednesday.

Reached by phone hours after Mizen’s arrest, a woman who said she was his wife said she hadn’t spoken to her husband since he was hauled away and that he had left his cellphone at home. She did not give her name and declined to discuss the allegations against him.

According to the criminal complaint, Mizen wrote a check from the Center Township bank account on June 10, 2010, for $343,541.08 and deposited it in a personal PNC Bank account. He then transferred the money to other accounts that he drew from until July 2012.

He spent $200,000 on his home and roughly $19,000 for the truck, prosecutors allege. He also used the money to pay for his son’s college education and personal vacations, including a trip to the Cayman Islands in August 2010, where $8,900 was spent on the jewelry, according to the complaint.

Agents seized Mizen’s truck, and a diamond ring and necklace on Tuesday and placed a “lis pendens” on his home alerting potential buyers that it is the subject of a continuing lawsuit.

Flanked by officials from the FBI, IRS, and the Indiana State Board of Accounts, U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said the charges were the result of work by a state and federal task force investigating public corruption.

“All of these of course were taxpayer funds that were used to finance his own personal expenditures,” Hogsett said. “I say this is a sad day for the residents and taxpayers of Center Township, because as most of you know, township funds are largely used for emergency assistance and service to residents of Center Township.”

It was a State Board of Accounts audit that first uncovered the suspicious check Mizen wrote in June 2010. The State Board of Accounts is the auditing arm put in place to not only oversee townships, but all government agencies in Indiana.

“The State Board of Accounts is certainly a first line of defense,” retired Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall Shephard said.

“Someone who knew the tricks of the trade still got caught,” Driskell said.

Mizen stopped working as the township’s financial officer in January 2011 after a separate audit found he had claimed roughly $170,000 in overtime and comp time, despite working as a salaried employee.

“It’s to me a betrayal of the public trust and erodes public confidence, and undermines the structure of the government that we have here in Indiana. And if left unchecked, it threatens the way that government and our way of life here in Indiana,” said State Examiner Paul Joyce, who heads the State Board of Accounts.

Center Township Trustee Eugene Akers says he believes his office is still strong.

“Everybody knows that the State Board of Accounts will be around sooner or later. And we believe that the overwhelming majority of people in public life perform in an honest and effective way,” Shephard said.

Still Driskell and the rest of the Indiana Trustee Association want to take protecting the poor a step further by teaming up with the Attorney General’s office.

“We’re working together with them to find ways that we might improve including legislation for next year,” Driskell said.

Indiana’s townships, a subset of each county and different from the state’s towns and cities, serve only a few functions, chiefly providing emergency assistance to the poor. State leaders have tried before to eliminate township government, calling it redundant and outdated, but have been unsuccessful.

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