Attorney in Hot Water Over Bills to Iowa Public Defender's Office

(SPENCER, IA) Can you work more than 24 hours in a day? That claim has a Spencer, Iowa lawyer in hot water.

The state says the public defender was paid $177,000 that doesn't belong to him.

The Iowa State Auditor claims 60-year-old Ney McDaniel, who was contracted through the State Public Defender's Office, over billed the state for three and a half years.

The investigation started in February of 2011 when the Clay County Attorney's office contacted the DCI. There were questions about the number of hours McDaniel submitted to the State Public Defender's office.

"The Clay County Attorney's office thought that these billings kind of exceeded the common sense approach, the common sense billing of what an attorney could bill for the hours he had worked on cases he had been assigned by the State Public Defender's office," said Mitch Mortvedt, the Special Agent in Charge with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations.

The State Auditors Office says McDaniel claimed he worked more than 24 hours a day on at least 80 different occasions.

"There was a number of times he claimed at least 20 hours in a day and a number of times he claimed 15-20 hours in a day that he was working on specific cases when it actuality he wasn't," said Mortvedt. "From what the State Auditor's Office identified there's approximately $177,000 of misappropriated funds that he had billed the state for."

McDaniel is facing 3 felony charges including ongoing criminal conduct, first degree theft and first degree fraudulent practice. It's believed McDaniel is currently out of the state but it's not believed he fled because of the investigation. The DCI and the State Attorney General's office are working together to find McDaniel and hope he turns himself in.

"He was essentially defrauding the public. That's why we act quickly on this to hopefully curb or curtail the practice or the illegal stuff he was doing but also to try and bring resolution in the case and ultimately hold someone accountable," said Mortvedt.

The McDaniel Case has spawned an investigation into more privately contract public defenders.