Opelika Woman Sentenced to 42 months for Wire Fraud
BIRMINGHAM –An Opelika woman who stole money from the Talladega County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments was sentenced yesterday, announced U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr.
U.S. District Judge R. David Proctor sentenced Andrea Payne, 63, to 42 months for wire fraud. Payne pled guilty in April to one-count of wire fraud.
“Our brave first responders often do more with less, so it is especially aggravating when the public trust is violated not only for the sake of greed but at the ultimate expense of public safety,” Town said. “Payne will repay her debt over the next 42 months which comes as little comfort to the citizens protected by the Talladega County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments and the Association itself.”
“This case should send a message to the citizens of North Alabama, if you choose to violate the public trust and steal tax payer dollars, the FBI and our partners will be right behind you,” Sharp said. “Payne will now spend the next several years behind bars reflecting on her actions. I want to extend my personal thanks to the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office and the Talladega County District Attorney’s Office for their assistance in this case.”
According to the plea agreement, 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 FBI investigated the case, along with the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office and the Talladega District Attorney’s Office, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark prosecuted.