State Rep. Napoleon Bracy (D-Prichard) called for prosecutors to come down hard on Pritchard Water Works employees who embezzled millions from water ratepayers.
Bracy asked for the Mobile District Attorney’s office, the Alabama Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office, the State Auditor’s office, the Alabama Ethics Commission, and the Office of Examiners of Public Accounts all to “come down hard” on seven Prichard Water Works employees who he said may have bilked water ratepayers out of millions of dollars.
Bracy made the comments in an interview on Tuesday with 1819 News and Alabama Public Television’s Randy Scott.
“I think that these are definitely federal crimes,” Bracy said asking for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Mobile to investigate.
Former Prichard Water Works Board manager Nia Bradley and at least six of her administration allegedly used and abused their positions to embezzle an estimated $50,000 a month from the public utility over a 48-month period before a recent audit uncovered the massive alleged corruption in the small Mobile County town of 19,322 residents (2020 Census).
Bracy called on the appointed members of the Water Works Board to resign.
“Most of the residents are extremely poor and elderly on fixed incomes,” Bracy said. “This had a tremendous impact on the water bills of the residents of Prichard, which already pay the highest rates in Mobile County and among the highest in the state. And this hurt the credit rating of the Water Works.”
Bracy said that there was an “Extensive misuse of funds including over $4 million spent on luxury items.”
According to information shared by Bracy with 1819 News, the audit turned up $3,998,215.36 in suspect expenditures of the Prichard Water Works funds. The credit cards used were by seven employees, one is labeled ghost card and another one is called PWWSB. There were nine cards total.
Some of the transactions include $3,605 at Word of Faith in Chickasaw, $8,706.77 spent at Gucci (Most recently in Feb. 2021), $17,108 at Louis Vuitton (including $4,732 spent on Dec. 4, 2020, alone), $3,500 on 500 Dollar General gift cards on Nov. 7, 2019, $16,428.78 on colored contact lenses, $3,046.25 between two Waterworks board employees used at Columbia Southern University, $1,670 on one employee used at Bishop State Community College, $2,000 to Premiere Driving Academy, $860.64 at Sally's Beauty Supply, $800.98 at GameStop, $453.54 at Victoria's Secret, $28,477.75 spent at Mardi Gras in 2019, $10,198.39 spent at Mardi Gras in 2020, $5,789.71 spent at the Ritz Carlton in Georgia on Jan. 28, 2020, Tens of thousands spent on flights, seat upgrades, hotels, rental cars, Ubers, etc. $248,206.01 spent at Unlimited Autos with the largest transaction in Oct. 2020 for $12,300.
The purchases include "A food truck that was purchased and then stolen from the Pritchard Water Works Board," Bracy said.
1819 News asked How do you steal a food truck? Where would you even pawn that?
“I have no idea,” Bracy answered. “That would have to be an inside job for somebody to be able to do that.”
The transactions occurred between Jan. 2018 and Oct. 2021.
“I am asking that we prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.” Bracy asked for prosecutors, “To be as aggressive as possible and to go back at least ten years because we believe that this has been going on for a long time.
“If we are just looking at the last few years, we are looking at $3 and $4 million already so a lot of things are going to come out,” Bracy said.
1819 News asked if we need to reform how we do corruption investigations in the state of Alabama?
“I think we need to be more aggressive when it comes to violations of public trust,” Bracy said. “This is definitely a lose-lose scenario for the citizens of Prichard especially senior citizens who are already on fixed incomes and barely making ends meet."
Bracy said that the water customers, some of whom “have bills north of $3,000 a month, have contacted an attorney and are looking at some type of action.”
1819 News asked if this alleged scandal would hurt economic development in Prichard.
“I think anytime that you are in the media for negative things it can negatively impact your community in economic development as well as when you have high water rates,” Bracy said. I would like to see everything that was purchased with these illegal funds be confiscated and all of the money seized back.”
Bradley's attorney said that the expenditures were approved by the Water Works board.
The attorney for the Prichard Water Works board on Monday confirmed an audit has revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars of questionable spending by the former manager.
Jay Ross, the attorney for the Prichard Wateworks and Sewer System, told FOX10 News, “It’s the worst case of public corruption I have ever seen.”
The audit will be complete sometime next week. No one has been charged with a crime and all parties are considered innocent until proven guilty.
To see video of the news conference with Bracy:
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email brandon.moseley@1819News.com.