Sheriff Took Kickbacks for Card Fees, Class Says

     FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (CN) – An Arkansas sheriff received kickbacks from a company hired to convert cash seized from county jail inmates to prepaid debit cards “with numerous exorbitant fees,” a federal class action claims.
     More than 2,200 people who were arrested or booked in Benton County Jail claim their cash was seized and later returned as prepaid debit cards that charged them fees of $1.50 to $38 per transaction.
     According to the lawsuit, Sheriff Kelley Cradduck hired co-defendant Keefe Commissary Network to provide jail commissary services “for specified inflated prices and upon certain terms.”
     “One of these terms was that defendant Keefe would pay a kickback to defendant Cradduck of 34% of ‘adjusted gross sales’ of gross commissary sales, less certain noncommissioned items,” the complaint states. “This kickback is expressly identified and referred to as a ‘service fee’ in the contract between defendants.”
     The contract was allegedly signed last April.
     “Under this contract and the policy, defendant Cradduck has agreed with defendant Keefe that money seized from arrestees and/or inmates is to be involuntarily placed into a ‘designated account.’ Defendant Cradduck has purported to authorize defendant Keefe to withdraw and convert funds properly belonging to the class members from this designated account, to the injury of the class members,” the lawsuit states.
     “This agreement is part of the quid pro quo for the kickback that defendant Cradduck receives under the commissary agreement …. This agreement includes a schedule of fees that are involuntarily charged to inmates for the use (and failure to use) the prepaid debit card.” (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Lead plaintiff Yves Adams was arrested in February on suspicion of public intoxication, according to the complaint. Sheriff’s deputies allegedly seized his $613 in cash.
     After spending the night in jail, Adams was issued “an unwanted prepaid debit card rather than the currency which he legitimately owned and possessed and which was seized from him by defendant Cradduck’s deputies when he was released from the Benton County Jail,” he claims.
     He says he asked for his cash, but the prepaid debit card was “the only way that he could receive his money … under defendant Cradduck’s policy.”
     “As a result of this policy and practice, the $613 in cash (currency) that was seized by defendant Cradduck from Mr. Adams when he was arrested was never returned to him,” the lawsuit states. (Parentheses in complaint.) “Instead, he was issued a prepaid debit card in the amount of $613, which he used to withdraw money from an ATM in order to pay for his bond, a transaction that improperly and illegally cost him $2.75 according to the schedule of fees to complete.”
     The average amount placed on a prepaid debit card upon an inmate’s release from jail is $88.74, according to the lawsuit.
     The class seeks punitive damages for alleged civil rights violations, conversion and trespass.
     They are represented by Charles M. Kester and Monzer Mansour of Fayetteville.

%d bloggers like this: