DAKOTA CITY | The handling of Dakota County Jail inmates' money will get closer scrutiny after a former jail employee was himself placed in a cell amid accusations he stole $400 from a man in his custody.
Mason Billings, 44, of Akron, Iowa, was arrested Friday on one count of theft by unlawful taking, a misdemeanor. His next court appearance is Tuesday.
Billings, who was arrested Friday, took $400 from an inmate whom he booked into the jail, at 1601 Broadway St., on Sept. 10, according to court documents.
Dakota County Sgt. Jared Junge wrote in a probable cause affidavit that Billings admitted taking the money and said he had a gambling problem.
Dakota County Jail Director Terry Kern said Billings was fired and has repaid the money. Billings was being held Monday at the jail in lieu of $10,000 bail.
Kern said the incident prompted a policy change at the jail. As a result of the incident two staffers, not one as previously allowed, must be present when an inmate's money is counted.
The inmate was taken to the jail after being arrested by the South Sioux City Police Department. When he was booked into the jail, approximately $700, along with his clothes and billfold, were placed in the bag, documents say.
The inmate discovered his property was missing when he tried to make a money transfer and couldn’t find some of his cash, said Kern.
Junge wrote in his affidavit that Billings was observed on jail security footage taking an item from a plastic bag containing the inmate’s property.
The jail was at the center of controversy several years ago after the County Board voted to table, then seal, a 2007 report by an Omaha law firm that investigated allegations of employee sexual misconduct. The board forced the jail into civilian control the same year. In 2009 and 2010, 11 jail employees and corrections officials filed lawsuits claiming harassment and discrimination at the jail.
CORRECTION: Information has been added to this story regarding the nature of a 2007 report by an Omaha law firm into Dakota County.