Embezzlement brings 3-year prison sentence

Published 10:47 pm Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A former Lincoln County volunteer fire chief is headed to prisonafter admitting to stealing almost $25,000 from hisdepartment.

Former New Sight Volunteer Fire Department chief Mike Boyd, 37, of682 Earls Trail, was sentenced to three years in the MississippiState Penitentiary after pleading guilty to embezzlement Monday inLincoln County Circuit Court. Seven years of the 10-year sentencewere suspended for a five-year period of supervised release, and hewas ordered to refund the embezzled amount, fined $3,000 and courtcosts.

District Attorney Dee Bates said embezzlement charges are notnormally so severe, but Boyd’s former position as fire chief madehim a holder of the public trust and subject to stifferpunishment.

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“With regular embezzlement, you don’t go to jail. But this wasdealing with county funds,” Bates said.

An investigation found that Boyd embezzled $24,356.25 from the firedepartment over a two-year period, from November 2007 to November2009.

He was found to have written department checks to himself andcashed insurance rebate checks written to the fire department. Ontop of pocketing some cash, he used the department’s money to payhis cell phone and power bills, service his computer and spentapproximately $7,800 to fuel up his personal vehicle, according tocourt statements.

Lincoln County Fire Coordinator Clifford Galey said theinvestigation into New Sight’s records began late last year whenmembers there noticed, “something wasn’t right.” The Lincoln CountySheriff’s Department was called in to investigate when it wasdetermined funds were missing, and Boyd admitted to taking themoney almost immediately.

Galey said Boyd’s first embezzlement two years ago was using thedepartment’s Fuelman card, a kind of charge card issued tocompanies and public bodies, to gas up his personal vehicle.

“He got himself in a bind, and it seemed to be easy to him,” Galeysaid. “Once he got started, he couldn’t quit.”

Boyd acted alone in the embezzlement case and measures have beentaken to prevent it from happening again, Galey said. Thedepartment’s board of directors was dissolved in January and newmembers appointed; Mike Beauvais was named chief.

“They’ve restructured and they’re out there trying to do what’sright,” Galey said.

While New Sight has been restructured to prevent further offenses,other volunteer fire departments may still be open to theft.

Loyd Star Volunteer Fire Department’s Ben Smith, 20, of 2117 TampaTrail, was arrested and charged with embezzlement from hisdepartment on the same day as Boyd’s sentencing. Smith allegedlyused Loyd Star’s fuel card to gas up his personal vehicle.