I-Team: Former water employee sentenced to 51 months in stealing case

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A once-trusted employee of the Las Vegas Valley Water District was sentenced Tuesday to more than four years in prison for stealing close to $7 million in a scheme that went undetected for eight years.

The large scale theft was first made public by the 8 News Now I-Team almost three years ago. Federal authorities arrested Jennifer “JJ” McCain-Bray months later. 

McCain-Bray was well liked and well trusted but in court she appeared broken and humiliated by actions which she blamed — in part — on addictions and other disorders as she asked the court for a lighter sentence. The judge didn’t buy it.

McCain-Bray had nothing to say after the boom was lowered in federal court. But before being sentenced, she told a tearful tale to Judge Kent Dawson, about her emotional and psychological issues, family illnesses, a drug problem, and an addiction to spending that combined to lead her down the road to crime.

The judge wasn’t moved. This was not, after all, a one-time mistake by McCain-Bray. It went on for eight long years, and she had flaunted her ill-gotten gains, as the I-Team first reported, she spent millions of pilfered dollars on home improvements including a pool and casita, expensive toys including RV’s and boats, trips and gifts for family and friends.

McCain-Bray worked as a purchasing agent at the water district starting in 2007, she started buying huge amounts of ink, printing cartridges from one vendor, Staples. It was far more ink than could ever be used at the district, much of it for machines no longer in use.

Purchases were disguised in different accounts. The ink cartridges were shipped out from the water district to a small distributor in New Jersey, which sold them and sent money to McCain-Bray. She stashed a lot of the cash in PayPal accounts and went on a massive spending binge. The water district estimated the theft at more than $4 million, but the actual total was closer to $7 million.

“It was a $6.7 million fraud scheme. Public service is a public trust and today’s sentence sends a strong signal to anybody who violates that trust that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the IRS is looking at it,” said U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich, Nevada.

Prosecutors noted that McCain-Bray has yet to pay back a cent of what was stolen. The water district was reimbursed by insurance for about half of the stolen millions.

In addition to a 51-month prison sentence, she is on the hook for the full amount, which could mean the seizure of items purchased with the loot. McCain-Bray told the court she is humiliated and remorseful for the shame she’s caused to her family.

Water district auditors didn’t notice the theft or the out-of-whack ink purchases until Dec. 2015. Since then, the district instituted changes which it believes will prevent this from ever happening again.

No charges were filed against the New Jersey people who received the stolen goods. McCain-Bray has until April 29 to report to prison.

(McCain received 51 months for mail fraud and 36 months for filing a false tax return. The sentences will be served in federal prison concurrently.)

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