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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Money for delinquent girls misspent, state says



From The Miami Herald: State investigators say Vicki Lopez Lukis used her contracts with juvenile justice administrators for personal gain, buying meals at a steakhouse, a sushi restaurant and a raw bar, gifts for friends and lawmakers, doughnuts, tickets to a film festival and flowers, spending taxpayer dollars on cell phone roaming charges in Europe, gift cards, and paying off staffers’ parking tickets.

Using state money, a report says, she purchased office furniture and computer equipment — at a cost of thousands of dollars — from a company owned by her husband and son. And, documents say, she “falsified” records to justify being paid for services that weren’t rendered.

The report issued by the Department of Juvenile Justice’s inspector general in June said at least $111,000 meant to provide services for delinquent girls was misused. The state’s financial watchdog recommended that DJJ get its money back.

But just a week later, the juvenile justice department — now headed by Lopez Lukis’ longtime friend, Wansley Walters — inked a new contract with Lopez Lukis’ group, the Girls Advocacy Project. The state has yet to ask for a refund.

Lopez Lukis declined to discuss the investigation in any detail, but in an email to The Miami Herald, insisted that neither she nor her colleagues at GAP had done anything wrong.

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[Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2011 9:49am]


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