Two Mississippi Department of Transportation public affairs employees were indicted by a Hinds county grand jury this week on embezzlement charges over gift cards.

Jarrod Ravencraft, 49, was indicted on one count of embezzlement for using $10,000 worth of gift cards owned by MDOT and utilizing them for his own use from June 2017 until March 2018. 

He was hired as MDOT’s Public Affairs director in 2013 and left the agency in July 2018.

Selena Sandifer, 40, was indicted on one count of embezzlement on September 10 for converting $1,000 of gift cards in December 2015 to her own use. Sandifer was a deputy director in the public affairs division and was hired in 2013.

The two could face up to 20 years in prison apiece if convicted.

The gift cards were to be distributed to Mississippi public schools to reward teachers who completed an MDOT safety education program known as the Transportation Safety Education Program that gave grants to schools. 

Participating middle and high schools were required to use at least two transportation safety lesson plans, host several safety events at their schools and participate in training online. The school was also to have at least 60 percent of their students sign the Safe Driver Pledge on the MDOT website.

The safety program covers seat belt use, child safety seats, impaired and distracted driving, speeding, road dangers, safe pedestrian, and biking practices and school safety.

Schools could sign up for the program to receive MDOT funds and up to five teachers or administrators at each participating school could receive a safety leader award, with the Walmart gift cards as a reward. 

MDOT has a budget of $1.105 billion in fiscal 2020, with most of it ($559 million) coming from federal funds. The rest comes from the state’s 18.7 cent per gallon tax on gasoline.