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Alabama sheriff pocketed millions of dollars allocated for food for inmates

But Todd Entrekin claims he did nothing wrong.

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin pocketed millions that were allocated for prisoner meals. CREDIT: TODD ENTREKIN FOR SHERIFF
Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin pocketed millions that were allocated for prisoner meals. CREDIT: TODD ENTREKIN FOR SHERIFF

A series of investigations from AL.com have revealed that Todd Entrekin, the sheriff in Alabama’s Etowah County, personally pocketed over a million dollars that had been allocated to feeding inmates at the Etowah County Detention Center.

But Entrekin has claimed he did nothing wrong, and was simply following the letter of the law.

As the investigations revealed, Entrekin oversees the detention center, an imposing gray building in Gadsden, Alabama. The prison currently has a contract with the federal government to house hundreds of undocumented immigrants.

Some of that money is budgeted for feeding the inmates — but not all of it is spent on the detainees. Instead, citing an arcane Alabama statute that allows sheriffs to keep money not spent on inmate food, Entrekin personally pocketed a significant amount of the money that wasn’t spent on the inmates.

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As AL.com uncovered, “beginning in October 2011, the surplus from feeding federal inmates over the next three years was more than $3 million – half of which Entrekin pocketed and half of which went to the county’s general fund, according to the documents and interviews with county officials.”

And that’s not all. When early investigations uncovered how Entrekin personally profited from the scheme, he claimed he’d made only $750,000 from 2015 to 2017. That’s technically true — and it was enough to allow Entrekin to purchase a $740,000 beachfront property — but it glossed over the remaining $750,000 Entrekin had made since 2011.

Entrekin recently lost his re-election bid and will be stepping down next month.

Entrekin is not the only Alabama sheriff to argue that state statutes allow him to keep the funds — a claim that would appear to fly in the face of federal regulations. However, his case is easily the most egregious, especially given that he’s the only sheriff overseeing prisons with hundreds of undocumented immigrants.

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According to Entrekin, the detention center routinely houses over 300 detainees held for immigration violations at a time.

Even worse, the detention center Entrekin oversees is routinely cited as one of the worst in the entire country, especially as it pertains to detainee treatment. As the Southern Poverty Law Center noted, detainees at Entrekin’s prison “go months – even years – without feeling the sun on their skin because the detention center lacks an outdoor recreation area.”

Inmates have also complained that officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement beat detainees when they don’t sign travel documents. 

And Entrekin personally profited from the misery, especially when it came to skimping on meals for inmates. As one former inmate told AL.com, “They fed the inmates up there stuff I wouldn’t feed to my dogs… I guarantee that Todd Entrekin wouldn’t eat it.”

The operation, as Entrekin said, was his own “private business.”