October 28, 2020

Ex-fire department treasurer charged with writing herself $35,000 in checks

A former treasurer for a Southwest Mississippi volunteer fire department was arrested by state auditor’s office agents today on charges of embezzlement.

State Auditor Shad White announced Friday the arrest of Sandra “Carlene” Statham.

Statham is the former treasurer for Friendship Volunteer Fire Department in Pike County. She was arrested for embezzlement after she was indicted by a grand jury assembled by District Attorney for the 14th District Dewitt Bates. The Auditor’s office conducted the investigation after the Pike County Sheriff’s Office requested assistance.

Statham had sole signatory authority for the fire department’s bank account during her time as treasurer. Investigators reviewed bank records and determined Statham signed checks worth $35,772.23 made payable to herself in excess of the compensation to which she was entitled.

Since accounting duties for the fire department were not properly separated, she was able to hide the illegal checks from the fire department board members from January 2013 to June 2018.

“This particular scheme went on far too long. Small offices—from fire departments to small state agencies to local governments—have to be particularly vigilant when one employee has a great deal of power over the checkbook,” said Auditor Shad White. “The best way to prevent this from happening in other places is to make sure responsibility for handling money and the checkbook is divided among multiple people.”

If convicted, Statham faces up to 20 years in prison and $25,000 in fines. All persons arrested by the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The case will be prosecuted by the office of District Attorney Bates.

“This investigation was successful because someone saw wrongdoing and reported it,” said White. “Most of our cases investigated by the Auditor’s office begin with a tip from the public or a whistleblower.

The Mississippi Office of the State Auditor will work with prosecutors to return all embezzled funds to the Friendship Volunteer Fire Department.” Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.