Nursing home agency director used state credit card for air fryers, smart watches, audit alleges

Mark Hebert spent more than $18,000 over 2 years on what auditors say were personal purchases

By: - February 20, 2023 5:52 pm
American flag steaked into mountain of cash

(Getty Images)

The former head of a state nursing home oversight office allegedly racked up over $18,000 in personal charges on an agency-issued credit card, buying items such as phones, smartwatches, speakers, kitchen appliances and streaming TV subscriptions.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office issued a report Monday that detailed the credit card spending of Mark Hebert when he was executive director of the Louisiana Board of Examiners of Nursing Facility Administrators. The audit covered credit card use from June 2019 through July 2022. The board is a small state agency that oversees the licensure and training for nursing home professionals.

Hebert charged a total of $98,080 to his office-issued card during that two-year period, and $18,979 appeared to be charges of a personal nature, according to the report.

“By using public funds for personal purchases, Mr. Hebert may have violated state laws,” the audit report said.

The report noted the possible violations include theft, unauthorized use of movable property and malfeasance in office, among others. However, Hebert’s attorney John McLendon, said his client has not been charged with any crime and maintains that every purchase was authorized.

“I don’t think this is criminal in any way,” McLendon said in a phone interview Monday. “He worked there for 17 years with a flawless record.”

The personal items included electronics, such as four Samsung Galaxy phones, two Galaxy tablets, a smartwatch, earbuds and related accessories. Hebert also bought a safe, two air fryers, a portable car starter, a robotic vacuum cleaner and a set of speakers. The card was also used to buy gas-powered generators, portable power stations and related accessories including cords, canopies and fuel cans.

Receipts show the majority of the items were shipped directly to Hebert’s residence. The audit claims there was no documentation saying the purchases were authorized or used for business purposes. The report also said the generator equipment was stored at Hebert’s residence.

McLendon said the items were shipped to Hebert’s residence because he was working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Records show Hebert charged more than $2,400 on subscriptions for newspapers, satellite radio and streaming services from the Weather Channel, KlowdTV, Philo and Fox Nation Patriot News, according to the report.

He also used the credit card to pay for his home internet service totaling over $3,400. Hebert said the former and now deceased board chairman had approved the payments for his home internet service because Hebert had to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The audit noted Hebert continued to use the agency card for his home internet more than a year after he returned to the office fulltime in January 2021.

Hebert reportedly told the auditors he purchased the generator equipment to run different parts of the office during disasters, and that he never used the generators personally. According to the audit report, Hebert’s assistant said she wasn’t aware of any generators being used at the office and that the office shuts down during statewide emergencies.

After the auditors took inventory of the items, Hebert rented a storage unit on behalf of the board and transferred the items from his home to the unit.

Hebert returned a total of about $7,600 worth of items and resigned from his position in August 2022, a few months after an independent accountant first discovered the questionable charges, the audit report said.

McLendon said his client believes a former disgruntled employee lodged the allegations that led to the audit.

The board of examiners, which employs only two full-time staffers, adopted new internal controls in response to the audit. The office has implemented a new purchase order system that requires approval of the board chairman whenever the executive director wants to spend more than $500. The board chairman must likewise seek approval from the finance committee for purchases over $1,000.

The board will also conduct monthly reviews of credit card statements and compare charges to itemized receipts. Any charges without appropriate documentation will not be approved, and “the person who made the charges will be required to reimburse the board of those specific charges,” according to the agency’s written response.


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Wesley Muller
Wesley Muller

Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the years since then, he has freelanced for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans and worked on staff at the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi.