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|Monroe tax director remains in parish prison|
The city of Monroe's top tax official remains in jail a week after he was first arrested on multiple counts of theft and malfeasance in office.
Patrick Onyemechara, 51 of Monroe, was charged and booked into the Ouachita Correctional Center last week on 11 counts of felony theft and one count of malfeasance in office in connection with the disappearance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in city revenues.
Onyemechara is being held in lieu of a $1.8 million bond. He also was ordered to surrender all passports because of a potential flight risk.
Monroe City Attorney Nanci Summersgill declined to comment on the case because she said city officials have not been briefed by criminal investigators.
"Until we get a briefing from the investigators, I don't think it is appropriate for anyone to make any comments to the media," Summersgill said.
Summersgill added that she expected to be briefed by investigators on Thursday afternoon.
Documents obtained by The Ouachita Citizen outlined a timeline of events that began when a city employee discovered a check dated Dec. 12, 2006, had not been deposited into a city banking account.
The $73,606 check was written by a Monroe business to cover delinquent sales taxes.
Upon further investigation, a city employee found additional check stubs for delinquent sales tax receipts. However, no corresponding payments were posted to city accounts of those businesses.
At that point, city officials contacted the Monroe Police Department, which executed a search warrant on Onyemechara's office.
Investigators questioned a number of taxation and revenue employees, who confirmed Onyemechara had given them instructions to forward all delinquent sales tax payments directly to him.
One city cashier also said Onyemechara presented a number of checks to her and instructed her to "cash the checks and give him the cash," according to the documents.
That employee kept a log of each check, with transactions dating back to 2004.
The documents also indicated investigators served a search warrant at Onyemechara's home, where they discovered more financial records and bank documents.
The investigations are ongoing.
Assistant district attorney Neil Johnson is handling the case for the 4th Judicial District Attorney's office.
Johnson declined to comment on the case, citing the open nature of the investigation.
Onyemechara has worked in a number of city jobs since 1998. He joined the city payroll during the administration of Abe Pierce.
He became director of Taxation and Revenue in 2001.
Though not a U.S. citizen, Onyemechara is a legal resident and filed proper paperwork, including a Social Security number and driver's license, with the city when he was hired in 1998.