A former treasurer for the Oloh Fire Department has been arrested for allegedly embezzling thousands of dollars from the organization, including making payments to her personal credit card using the fire department’s bank account.
State Auditor Shad White announced Thursday that Michelle Barefoot was arrested this week by special agents from the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor. The arrest took place after a grand jury assembled by Hal Kittrell, District Attorney for the 15th District Court of Mississippi, returned an indictment for embezzlement against Barefoot.
“The sad truth is that, when you look at fraud statistics around the country, small organizations have more fraud cases and lose more money per fraud than large organizations,” White said in a statement on his website. “Local government has more fraud than state government, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
“This case is a classic example of how people can take advantage of small, local entities like a volunteer fire department. We’re going to remain vigilant in identifying and bringing cases like this one to a conclusion.”
The embezzlement case was discovered in the Audits Exception Report, which White released in August. The report shows that White has issued 43 demands to recover almost $3 million in misappropriated funds from organizations throughout the state, including more than $422,000 from the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission, as well as other funds from the Mississippi Military Department, N.R. Burger Middle School, the Oloh VFD and a former Lamar County Deputy Tax Collector.
The report states that Oloh Fire Department was issued a formal demand in August 2017 in the amount of $40,693.84 for misappropriation of funds on Barefoot’s part. For Fiscal Year 2018, payment of $22,993.89 – the principal amount of the demand – was received from Barefoot’s insurance company, leaving a balance of $17,699.95.
Barefoot was released from her position at the fire department in March 2012, when she failed to provide requested financial records after it was discovered she had used the company’s bank account between November 2010 and February 2012 to pay her credit card.