Former Desoto District Attorney’s Office employee pleads guilty to stealing program funds
SHREVEPORT, La. – United States Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook announced that a former employee of the Desoto Parish District Attorney’s Office pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing money intended to be paid to the District Attorney’s Office.
Melanie Barber, 36, of Converse, La., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote to one count of mail fraud. According to the guilty plea, Barber worked for the DeSoto Parish District Attorney’s Office from April 1, 2002 until she was fired on February 25, 2014 as the Issuing Worthless Checks/Arraignment Secretary. The DeSoto Parish District Attorney’s Office runs several programs including pretrial diversion, traffic diversion and a worthless checks program to allow participants to avoid court appearances if they meet conditions including keeping their record clean for a year and paying a fee via money order or cashier’s check made out to DeSoto Parish District Attorney’s Office. Barber negotiated at least 580 money orders made payable to, and/or intended for, the 42nd Judicial (Desoto Parish) District Attorney’s Office from 2004 to 2014. Barber negotiated at the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, banks and other retailers where she lied to the employees stating the District Attorney’s Office was dropping the charges against the payee of the money order and she needed to refund their money. The employees believed Barber and cashed the money orders, and Barber stole the money for her own personal use. In addition, Barber obtained blank money orders from program participants on which Barber put her name as the payee and deposited into her bank account. To cover the theft, Barber marked the cases in district attorney’s office records as nolle pros, charges rejected or as paid.
Barber faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. The court set a sentencing date of July 2, 2018.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike O’Mara is prosecuting the case.