A former bookkeeper for the Chambers County Probate Court pleaded guilty Monday after officials discovered she was using her official position to steal more than $290,000 from the court.
Rene Welch, 57, of Valley, pleaded guilty to violating Alabama’s ethics law by using her official position as bookkeeper for the probate court for personal gain, Attorney General Steve Marshall announced in a news release.
Welch is said to have stolen $299,861.68 between 2013 and 2017, according to Marshall.
Welch was sentenced to 10 years in prison in a Chambers County Circuit Court. The sentence she received is split. Welch will serve 18 months in prison followed by five years of probation, Marshall said.
Welch also was ordered to pay full restitution.
“When public employees are entrusted as guardians of the people’s money, they are accordingly held to a high standard,” said Marshall. “It is unconscionable that Ms. Welch used her official position to steal nearly $300,000 in public money from the Chambers County Probate Court. Her crime was discovered, and she was rightfully prosecuted under Alabama’s ethics law.”
Welch was employed by former Judge Brandy Easlick of the Chambers County Probate Court between July 2013 and December 2017. She used her position as a bookkeeper to steal $299,861.68 from the Probate Court during that time, said Marshall.
“Auditors with the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts discovered Welch’s theft, and she resigned from her position,” the release reads.
The Department of Examiners of Public Accounts assisted in investigating the case. Assistant Attorneys General Jasper Roberts and Peggy Rossmanith, as well as Special Agents of the Attorney General’s Special Prosecutions Division, worked to achieve Welch’s conviction, according to Marshall.