Alabama sheriff has personally kept over $1.5M through contract to house undocumented immigrants: report

A sheriff in Alabama has personally received large amounts of federal funds by housing undocumented immigrant detainees at the Etowah County Detention Center, according to a new report from AL.com

The newspaper, citing public records and interviews with county officials, reported that Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin has received funds from the federal government to house and feed detainees at the center. 

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The newspaper additionally noted that Entrekin has acknowledged keeping money meant for jail food that goes unspent. He said in a press conference that he kept more than $750,000 from 2015-2017. 

But, AL.com reports that the money Entrekin personally pocketed from the contract with the federal government is far bigger than that sum. Documents the newspaper reviewed show that beginning in October 2011, the surplus for feeding inmates for the following three years was $3 million. 

Entrekin personally pocketed half of that sum, while the other half was transferred to Etowah County's general fund, according to documents and interviews the newspaper conducted with government officials. 

County officials confirmed the newspaper's finding, with Kevin Dollar, Etowah County’s chief financial officer, saying, “The check has always been made out to him as sheriff."

Entrekin did not reply to requests for comment from AL.com. 

The newspaper notes that the practice of keeping funds meant to feed inmates is not unusual. But Entrekin, who is set to step down as sheriff next month, is the only sheriff in the state who oversees a jail that houses immigration detainees for the federal government.

Jessica Vosburgh, executive director of the Adelante Alabama Worker Center advocacy group in Hoover, Ala., told the newspaper that these findings should provoke federal authorities to stop sending detainees to the detention center. 

“There’s pretty much no way that the federal government is OK with this,” Randall Eliason, who once served as chief of the public corruption and government fraud section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, also said to AL.com. 

The report says that the federal government began housing detainees in the Etowah County Detention Center in 1997. It added that by 2011, the center became a source of massive profit.

Budget documents also made clear the plan to split surpluses for feeding jail detainees between Entrekin and the county’s general fund.

“With the [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] ICE funds, the money comes in here, we show all the salaries that are paid for ICE and the different expenses that are paid for ICE that we're required to show, and at the bottom line, say if we had $100,000 [remaining] at the end of the year, then the commission would get $50,000 and the sheriff would get $50,000,” David Akins, Etowah County’s chief administrative officer, said. 

The Hill has reached out to ICE for further comment.