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State audit finds Jamey Noel responsible for more than $900K in sheriff’s office and state funds

A recent audit by the Indiana State Board of Accounts shows former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel responsible for more than $900K in sheriff's office and state funds.
Clark County Sheriff's Office
A recent audit by the Indiana State Board of Accounts shows former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel responsible for more than $900K in sheriff's office and state funds.

A recently completed investigation by the Indiana State Board of Accounts shows former Clark County Sheriff Jamey Noel is responsible for more than $900,000 in funds. Three new search warrants were also issued this week in his ongoing criminal investigation.

The report released late last week by the Indiana State Board of Accounts coincided with the ongoing criminal investigation into the financial activities of Jamey Noel.

The former Clark County sheriff, who also previously operated a local fire and EMS nonprofit, is charged with 25 felonies including theft, tax evasion and ghost employment.

The new SBOA report includes more than $458,000 in “questionable” and “unsupported” payments from the Clark County jail commissary fund and around $280,000 in payments from commissary to Kenny Hughbanks, mainly for consulting work. Hughbanks is the former Scott County sheriff and previously worked for the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.

The SBOA said Noel is also on the hook for the nearly $147,000 cost of the special investigation, which looked into activities during his two terms as sheriff from 2015 to 2022.

Commissary funds 

The commissary fund is money a sheriff’s office takes in through the sale of items to people incarcerated in the jail. According to the SBOA investigation, uses for the fund allowed under Indiana code include commissary operations, special law enforcement training and equipment, as well as “any other purpose that benefits the sheriff’s department that is mutually agreed upon by the county fiscal body and the county sheriff.”

Investigators found more than $458,000 in commissary expenditures that either may not have complied with allowed uses of the fund or did not have enough documentation to show whether they were valid payments.

A bulk of the unsupported expenditures reported are from 2018. Investigators said records from that year were missing from the storage area with other commissary records.

Payments to Kenny Hughbanks 

Investigators said Hughbanks began submitting invoices to the sheriff’s office in March 2015, which became monthly later in the year. Through late 2022, investigators said Hughbanks, through his company Hughbanks Enterprises LLC, received more than $262,000 in unsupported payments for “consulting services” from the commissary fund.

But they said “no contract was provided” for examination to support the payments, and that the monthly invoices of $1,500 to $3,500 lacked details on the services and when they were performed. Investigators also said there was no record of the county fiscal body — the Clark County Council — approving the use of these funds.

According to the report, Hughbanks was also paid a reduced wage by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office while serving as the Scott County sheriff. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office approved leave for him under the Family and Medical Leave Act for several months during that year.

Investigators said Hughbanks was paid as a consultant for several years while employed by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and had no conflict of interest disclosure on file.

They also said Hughbanks was paid $17,500 from the jail’s commissary fund as a local match to a Port Security Grant in 2017. They said that money should have come from the general fund.

SBOA investigators request Noel and Hughbanks “jointly and severally” reimburse the jail's commissary fund for the money paid to Hughbanks Enterprises LLC.

Investigators have also sought financial and tax information for Hughbanks and his wife, Lyndi Hughbanks — who is president of the Scott County Council — in search warrants.

Vehicle transfers and sales 

Movement of vehicles between Noel, his associates, the sheriff’s office and the EMS nonprofit has been a focus of the state criminal investigation. In its report last week, the SBOA also listed several vehicle transactions, totaling more than $24,000 they said Noel is responsible for.

In one case, also reported in state police search warrants, Noel is accused of buying a Bluebird bus in 2022 for $12,000 with jail commissary funds and titling it to the Utica Township Volunteer Firefighters Association, also known as New Chapel EMS. It was transferred to the sheriff’s office days before the end of his term and later sold by the department for $5,900 — a loss of $6,100 to the county.

Other findings 

Investigators also noted a “fictitious invoice” for $6,539 to install a furnace at a location on Patrol Road in Clark County.

They said the original invoice was billed to Utica/New Chapel, with a different invoice provided as supporting documentation to SBOA investigators showing it was billed to the sheriff's office.

As part of his criminal charges, Noel is accused of having four Clark County Sheriff’s Office employees work on his personal and business properties while being paid by the county. The SBOA found documentation of more than $878 for two of the employees but were unable to get information on what the other two were paid.

Clark County Sheriff’s Office response

In a response sent to the SBOA this week and included in their official audit report, current Clark County Sheriff Scottie Maples through his attorney addressed internal deficiencies listed in the audit.

“The Clark County Sheriff’s Office, under Sheriff Maples’ leadership, is reviewing its current policies and procedures to confirm whether each noted deficiency has already been corrected since the time Sheriff Maples took office or whether additional safeguards should be implemented,” the response reads.

In addition to sending a semiannual commissary use report to the county auditor's office, the sheriff’s office will present the report in public council and commissioners meetings. They’ll also provide a detailed list of expenditures.

Other changes include discontinuing the auction of government surplus items and adding digital copies of jail commissary records.

New warrants 

There have now been 42 warrants issued in the ongoing criminal investigation, including four signed by the special judge this week.

In two of the warrants, investigators are working with the Indiana Department of Revenue and a Southern Indiana accountant to obtain tax returns from 2018 to 2022 and supporting documents for Kenny and Lyndi Hughbanks.

Court records show the Hughbanks did not report more than $214,000 paid to Hughbanks Enterprises LLC from the jail commissary fund between 2018 and 2022.

Police also spoke with a sheriff’s office employee who reported that sometime after February 2019, Kenny Hughbanks was showing her how to organize a file room at the sheriff's office when he noticed large boxes marked “commissary,” “commissary credit cards” and “bank statements.”

The employee said Hughbanks seemed “very concerned” that the files were so accessible. He had them moved to another area. SBOA investigators were not able to locate the 2018 commissary information, which “were and still are missing,” according to court records.

In the third warrant, police are seeking financial records and other banking information from a PNC Bank in New Albany for Jamey Noel, his wife Misty, his daughter Kasey, the “Utica Township Volunteer Fire Fighter Association” and Utica Fire Department Inc.

The PNC records are being sought after an investigator with Indiana’s Medicaid Fraud Unit discovered several transactions going to and from the Utica/New Chapel account to an unknown bank account.

Jamey, Misty and Kasey Noel have been listed in previous documents detailing charges to Utica/New Chapel accounts for personal items and services. The new report shows they received more than $3.5 million in “income, merchandise and services they failed to report” to the Indiana Department of Revenue between 2018 and 2022.

Jamey and Misty Noel were recently charged with 10 felonies each related to theft and tax evasion, in addition to Jamey Noel’s initial 15. Kasey Noel has not been charged.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec Inc., the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation, and the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.