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Money Stolen From City and Fire Dept.: This Week They Got It Back

SARDIS, Miss.–If you’ve ever had money stolen from you, you know how hard it is to get by until the next paycheck. Imagine how a small fire department might operate with a slow money leak that eventually tops $30,000. That happened in Panola County, but now money stolen from the Coles Point Volunteer Fire Dept. and the City of Sardis, in two separate cases, has been returned.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said Thursday that $10,000 was returned to the fire department, which is near Batesville. The money was recovered from Martha Chrestman, 64, former treasurer for the department, who embezzled over $30,000 in four years, from 2007 to 2011. She was convicted and will be sentenced April 10.

Another check, for $21,000, was presented to the City of Sardis. That money was recovered after Pickering said former Odessa Johnson, 53, was caught stealing. She embezzled $28,033.95 from January 2006 through April 2009. In 2012, she was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and five years of post-release supervision and ordered to pay $30,620.03 in restitution, which includes interest. She previously repaid $5,000 in 2009.

“These individuals misused their positions and stole from the taxpayers of their local communities,” said Pickering. “I am happy to be able to return these funds to the City of Sardis and the Coles Point Volunteer Fire Department and fully intend to pursue all avenues available to me to obtain full recovery of every cent that was taken.”

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