In a week’s time, not one but two MDOT employees have been charged with embezzlement.
Selena Standifer of Brandon and Jarrod Ravencraft of Jackson have both been indicted by a Hinds County grand jury for embezzlement charges relating to converting gift cards procured by MDOT for their own use.
Standifer turned herself in to authorities Friday following her indictment by a Hinds County grand jury. Standifer is accused of converting to her own use more than $1,000 in gift cards in December 2015 while employed by MDOT.
Ravencraft turned himself in Wednesday after his indictment by a Hinds County grand jury on one count of embezzlement. Ravencraft is accused of converting to his own use more than $10,000 in gift cards between June 2017 through March 2018 while employed by MDOT.
The gift cards were part of an incentive to public schools for completing MDOT safety education.
Standifer was the deputy director of public affairs during her time at MDOT, and Jarrod Ravencraft was the director of PR for the agency, most notably during the investigation of Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves’ alleged pressure on MDOT to complete roadwork near his home. Ravencraft played a pivotal role of helping to communicate between reporters and MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath and helping to craft MDOT’s messaging during that investigation.
Ravencraft left the agency in July 2018 and had been involved in lawsuits regarding evictions and debt collection over the years, according to Mississippi Today.
If convicted, both Standifer and Ravencraft face up to 20 years in prison.
“A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” said the statement from the Attorney General’s office.
The cases were investigated by Larry Ware of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander will handle the prosecution.
MDOT Director Melinda McGrath responded to the indictments and arrests.
“The Mississippi Department of Transportation discovered evidence of financial misconduct within the agency. As soon as the administration was made aware, an internal review was performed. As a result of the review, MDOT contacted the Mississippi Attorney General’s office and turned over all evidence collected to this point,” said McGrath. “The AG’s office reviewed the evidence and conducted an investigation to determine the severity and extent of the violations. The AG’s investigation leads to a grand jury indictment of 2 former employees. MDOT has cooperated fully with the AG’s investigators. MDOT takes this very seriously and has reviewed and strengthened internal controls to deter this type of misconduct from happening in the future. MDOT appreciates the swift and thorough investigation by the AG’s office and willingness to see this investigation through to an indictment.”
Answers from MDOT regarding questions about the dollar volume of gift cards, the source of funds for the gift cards, and who gift cards were presented to were not provided by press time.
This article will be updated with any additional responses or information.