ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — Two members of the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department were indicted on felony embezzlement charges by a Rockbridge County Grant Jury.
Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue Chief Nathan Ramsey said the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department’s Treasurer, Robert Newman, 54, was charged Sept. 3 with 13 felony counts of embezzlement and two felony counts of conspiracy to embezzle which allegedly occurred between May 2018 and May 2019.
The other official charged is Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department Chief Justin Garrett, 27. He faces two felony counts of conspiracy to embezzle occurring between May and June of 2018.
Newman, a three-year veteran of the department, is alleged to have signed department checks to himself for personal use. He is accused of embezzling a total of $166,000.
Garrett, who served for seven years on the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department including the last two as chief, is accused of having knowledge of Newman’s actions but not receiving any money, Ramsey said. He said the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department’s policy only required the signature of the treasurer to approve spending.
The missing funds were discovered in May during an annual audit.
The persons accused were arrested on Sept. 5. and were released on bond the same day.
Due to the incident, the Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue have set up a memorandum of understanding with the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department requiring it to seek approval from the Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue for expenditures of $1,000 or more. They are also required to submit financial reports monthly to the county.
The Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue have completed their investigation.
Ramsey said the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department’s ability to respond to emergencies has not been impacted. Former volunteers have stepped in to help the department and “get them to a sense of normalcy,” Ramsey said.
“The morale is low but they are working hard,” he added.