Big changes at BioPark following cashier fraud

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Three months after Larry Barker reported on the city’s investigation into workers at the Zoo and Aquarium, officials say they won’t ever know how much cashiers stole, but it could be tens of thousands of dollars.

Now the city is taking action to prevent future fraud and cashiers at the BioPark better get used to cameras.

Last December, attendance for the BioPark fundraiser River of Lights was up but revenues were down.

The city launched an investigation.

Undercover video from January taken by the city’s private investigators showed cashiers helping themselves to money.

Around the same time, the city’s Inspector General was conducting a separate investigation about missing money.

Both reached the same conclusions.

“Clearly, we needed closer supervision,” said John Soladay, Chief Operations Officer for the City of Albuquerque. “We needed a better job at cash handling; we needed a better checks and balance system.”

One of the biggest problems: On the zoo side, cashiers who take money from customers also let them into the park but there’s no tickets or ticket takers.

“You go through the booth – you pay at the booth and you go directly into the zoo,” he said. “We’re not structured to enable having that checks and balance mechanism.”

The city’s investigating putting in something like turn-styles or ticket kiosks to keep track of customers at the zoo.

In the meantime, managers have started randomly asking visitors inside the zoo to show their tickets to make sure the cashier rang them up and gave them a receipt.

In the upcoming months, they’ll also install surveillance cameras in every cashier booth but these cameras won’t be hidden.

“This isn’t going to be a secret,” Soladay said. “Big Brother is watching. It should eliminate some of the likelihood of fraud.”

Four cashiers were fired after the two investigations.

The city won’t release their names because they were temporary workers and not city employees.

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