A federal court sentenced an Opelika woman who stole money from the Talladega County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments Tuesday. 

Andrea Payne, 63, was sentenced to 42 months for wire fraud, according to a statement Wednesday from U.S. Attorney Jay Town’s Office.

Payne pled guilty in April 2019 to one count of wire fraud. 

“Our brave first responders often do more with less, so it is especially aggravating when the public trust is violated not only for the sake of greed but at the ultimate expense of public safety,” Town said. “Payne will repay her debt over the next 42 months which comes as little comfort to the citizens protected by the Talladega County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments and the Association itself.”

Payne previously served as the treasurer of the Talladega County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments, according to the plea agreement.

The Association received quarterly checks from the Talladega County Mission between 2012 and 2018 as distributions from the two-cent sales tax revenue. The purpose of the distributions was to provide financial assistance to 15 volunteer fire departments in Talladega County, the release said.

Payne, as treasurer, was responsible for receiving the funds and distributing them equally among the 15 fire departments. Instead, Payne embezzled the funds from the Association by using them to pay for her personal credit card, said the release. 

The embezzlement scheme resulted in Payne stealing more than $640,000 from the Association.

“This case should send a message to the citizens of North Alabama, if you choose to violate the public trust and steal taxpayer dollars, the FBI and our partners will be right behind you,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. said. “Payne will now spend the next several years behind bars reflecting on her actions.”

The FBI, Talladega County Sheriff’s Office and the Talladega District Attorney’s Office investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark prosecuted the case.

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