From The Trussville Tribune staff reports
BIRMINGHAM – A federal grand jury indicted an Opelika woman on multiple counts of wire fraud, said U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp.
Andrea Payne, 63, was charged in a 10-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.
“The defendant is facing federal charges due to the outstanding work of the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark. “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.”
According to the Department of Justice, between 2012 and 2018, the association received quarterly checks from the Talladega County Commission as distributions from the 2 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 15 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 maximum penalty for each count of wire fraud is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Justice Department.
The FBI investigated the case, along with the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark is prosecuting.