Federal Grand Jury Indicts Opelika Woman for Wire Fraud
BIRMINGHAM – A federal grand jury indicted a Opelika woman on multiple counts of wire fraud announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp.
Andrea Payne, 63, is charged in a ten-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court with stealing money from the Talladega County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments. Payne previously served as the Treasurer of the Talladega County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments. Between 2012 and 2018, the Association received quarterly checks from the Talladega County Commission as distributions from the two-cent sales tax revenue. The purpose of the distributions was to provide financial assistance to fifteen volunteer fire departments throughout Talladega County. As the Treasurer, Payne was responsible for receiving the funds from the Talladega County Commission and distributing the funds equally among the fifteen volunteer fire departments within Talladega County. Payne was not authorized to receive any compensation for her role as the elected Treasurer and was not authorized to use the funds for personal use. Payne embezzled funds from the Association by using the funds to pay for her personal credit card. The defendant’s scheme resulted in Payne stealing over $640,000 from the Association.
“The defendant is facing federal charges due to the outstanding work of the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark said. “The defendant’s actions in stealing money from local volunteer fire departments threatens the safety and security of residents of Talladega County. The money should have been used to aid in training volunteer firemen, to provide equipment and supplies, and to assist with disaster or emergency services.”
The maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The FBI investigated the case, along with the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark is prosecuting.
An indictment contains only charges. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.