Former Chief of Florence Fire Department Sentenced in Embezzlement Case
A former chief of a volunteer fire department in Florence County pleaded guilty on Monday, March 11th, to embezzlement charges.
According to the charges, 43-year-old Shannon Smith embezzled $200,000 from the fire department during his tenure, between 2007 and 2011. In 2011, an audit revealed the missing money and Smith was fired.
Smith pleaded guilty to charges of embezzlement of public funds, writing a fraudulent check, forging or altering the title of a vehicle, and obtaining goods under false pretenses.
Rather than go to jail for many years, he was sentenced to 5 years’ probation to pay back $205,000 to the Florence fire department, as well as 100 hours of public service.
Prosecutor Ed Clements III said that the sentence was intended specifically to get the department’s money back. “Somebody else could steal something worth a whole lot less and go to prison then this guy steals all this and doesn’t,” Clements said. “But in this case, we felt what’s most important is to get the citizens’ money back. And if he goes to prison, that’s not going to happen.”
After the audit, the State Law Enforcement Division discovered the extent of Smith’s embezzlement activities. He had opened a checking account in the department’s name that no one else knew about, and altered the title of the department’s pickup truck to make it seem like the department sold the vehicle to him. He then took out a $22,000 loan against the vehicle.
Smith’s attorney said that the former chief is remorseful, and wants to make things right. He will begin selling some of his personal belongings to start paying off the restitution.
Embezzlement Charges in South Carolina
Embezzlement refers to the theft of money or property by an individual who was trusted and responsible for handling the money or property of another party, a white-collar crime that commonly occurs in corporate settings. Embezzlement cases are rarely clear-cut, as the accused are the ones expected to have handled the assets that were embezzled. Simple human error or oversights could lead to wrongful embezzlement.
For an individual to be convicted of embezzlement, the prosecution must prove:
1. The defendant manipulated resources illegally
2. The victim entrusted the defendant with these
resources that were allegedly embezzled
3. The defendant intended to deprive the owner of
4. The defendant acquired access to these resources
through his/her employment
Embezzlement charges carry severe penalties. The defendant risks ruining his reputation and loss of employment even if they are later found not guilty of the crime. Punishments for those convicted of embezzlement can include fines, imprisonment, probation, payment of compensation and loss of legal rights among other potential punishments.
The Strom Law Firm Defends Against Emblezzment Charges
If you have received white collar criminal charges, you could lose your job, and your reputation. White collar criminal charges, including embezzlement of public funds, are serious crimes with serious consequences. The criminal defense attorneys at Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. include a former United States Attorney, a former public defender, a former Assistant Attorney General and Richland County Assistant Solicitor, as well as a tax lawyer familiar with IRS criminal investigations. The Strom Law Firm aggressively defends individuals on all criminal charges in all State and Federal Courts in South Carolina as well as the Federal Courts in Georgia. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case, so do not hesitate to contact us. 803.252.4800.