I-Team: Questions surround hiring of alleged embezzler

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How did a former water district purchasing agent who was under investigation by the FBI for embezzlement get hired by UNLV for a similar position? It depends on whom you ask.

The I-Team first broke the story two weeks ago about the theft of more than $4 million from the water district.

The central figure in the alleged purchasing scheme is JJ McCain. The I-Team first reported McCain left the Las Vegas Valley Water District under a cloud of controversy, then landed a job at UNLV to once again work as a purchasing agent.

So the question is, did no one check her background? It turns out, the answer is not that simple.

The purchasing scheme at the water district continued for at least four years. A water district employee discovered it in December 2015.

Hundreds of accounts were used to buy enormous quantities of printer ink and toner cartridges. The accounts were all linked to one name: JJ McCain.

Within days of the discovery, McCain resigned under pressure, and the FBI started an investigation.

By March, McCain had a new job as a purchasing analyst for UNLV. Las Vegas Valley Water District sources initially told the I-Team that UNLV never checked with the district’s human resources department to verify McCain’s employment or to ask why she left.

The water district suspects UNLV may have reached out to some workplace friends of McCain’s whose names were provided to the school as references.

This week, a spokesperson from UNLV told the I-Team a call was placed to McCain’s direct supervisor at the water district.

Apparently, no adverse information was shared about McCain’s work history or the FBI investigation. Water district employees and managers remain tight-lipped about the scandal and say they can’t discuss it as long as it is under investigation by the FBI.

Within days of the I-Team report about McCain’s job at UNLV, she and the university parted ways.

It could be that the person contacted at the water district was not allowed to mention the FBI investigation. In addition, there are limits on what former employers can say.

The water district says no one from UNLV contacted the human resources department, which is the proper place to check on the status of former employees.

New details are also emerging about the embezzlement scheme and what McCain told FBI agents when they interviewed her. The I-Team will have more on that part of the story tonight at 11 p.m.

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