A former East Mountain volunteer fire chief has pleaded guilty to misusing fire department funds and now faces two to 10 years in prison.
James Burks, 45, pleaded guilty Monday to misapplication of fiduciary property, a third-degree felony, according to Upshur County District Attorney Billy Byrd.
An Upshur County grand jury indicted Burks in September on a charge of misapplication of fiduciary property over $30,000.
In May, members of the East Mountain Volunteer Fire Department began to notice discrepancies in the department’s bank statement, Byrd said. He said that when members asked Burks, who was fire chief at the time, for supporting documentation about questionable purchases, he was unable to provide any. The members then called law enforcement, Byrd said.
Working with Upshur County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Tim Hall, fire department members identified about $45,000 in funds that had been used inappropriately, Byrd said. Purchases included trips to Shreveport casinos; loans using fire department equipment as collateral; food; gasoline; cash withdrawals; and personal items, such as spa treatments, he said.
Judge Dean Fowler of the 115th District Court accepted Burks’ plea. A sentencing date has not been set, but Byrd said he expects it to be soon.
The punishment range is two to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000. In addition, the court can order Burks to pay restitution.