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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                                          June 25, 2013                   

FORMER PINEVILLE OFFICIAL SENTENCED TO FEDERAL PRISON FOR EMBEZZLEMENT

Phillips-Ellis stole thousands in federal program aid money

BECKLEY, W.Va. – A former Town of Pineville official was sentenced on June 25 to a year and a half in federal prison in connection with an embezzlement scheme that siphoned a total of more than $80,000 in federal aid intended to support the town’s school safety initiative and a McDowell County housing organization, announced U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.  Brandee Denise Phillips-Ellis, 30, of Pineville, W.Va., previously pleaded guilty in March to theft concerning programs receiving federal funds.  Between March 2009 and December 27, 2011, Phillips-Ellis embezzled federal funds during her employment as the city manager and recorder for the Town of Pineville. 

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said, “It’s inexcusable when people abuse a position of trust to line their pockets with money that was intended to support two essentials of a strong community: housing and schools.”  Goodwin continued, “Criminals who steal from public coffers are not only breaking the law---they’re hurting communities that count on every dollar to provide and maintain services for their citizens.” 

During January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010, the Town of Pineville received approximately $10,000 in funding under the Safe Routes to School Program, a federal aid program administered by the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration. 

Phillips-Ellis illegally took twelve Town of Pineville checks totaling $14,649.83 to pay her husband’s personal credit card bills.  The defendant also wrote and cashed reimbursement checks from the Town of Pineville’s accounts and took $3,295.56 for her personal use.   Additionally, Phillips-Ellis wrote eleven Town of Pineville payroll checks to herself, totaling $20,427.50.  Phillips-Ellis also cashed a Town of Pineville check for $4,569.58 and used the proceeds in connection with the purchase of a personal vehicle.

Phillips-Ellis told investigators that during her employment at SAFE Housing and Economic Development, Inc. (SHED) in McDowell County, she falsified documents in order to receive $36,380 in payments as a vendor that she was not entitled to receive.  Phillips-Ellis was a full-time employee at SHED from about April 2006 through May 2009.  Phillips-Ellis also worked part-time for the organization from May 2009 until December 2011.  SHED is a non-profit organization that provides housing opportunities to low income first-time homebuyers.

In total, Phillips-Ellis admitted that she embezzled a combined total of $80,489.96 from the Town of Pineville and SHED.

The Court ordered the defendant to pay restitution in the amount of $80,489.96. 

The investigation was conducted by the West Virginia Commission on Special Investigations.  Assistant United States Attorney Eumi Choi handled the prosecution.  

This case was prosecuted as part of U.S. Attorney Goodwin’s Small Business Protection Initiative.  U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin announced the Small Business Protection Initiative in November 2010. 

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