Volunteer Fire Department treasurer arrested for stealing funds

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 6, 2018

The treasurer and secretary of the North East Volunteer Fire Department was arrested Friday afternoon at her Wiggins home for allegedly embezzling more than $60,000 from the department’s two accounts.

Pearl River County Sheriff Department Chief Investigator Marc Ogden said the case began with a complaint submitted to the law enforcement agency on Aug. 31.

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The complaint alleged that 49-year-old Sonja Lavette Dedeaux, the volunteer fire department’s secretary and treasurer, had been stealing money from the department. Ogden said the subsequent investigation included acquiring bank statements from Dedeaux, and her ex-husband who was the fire chief of the department, along with bank statements for both of the department’s accounts from the past five years.

County Administrator Adrain Lumpkin said each department has an account for fire insurance rebate funds and a separate account for tax funds collected by the county.

Ogden said that after investigators reviewed the bank records, it was discovered that Sonja Dedeaux had allegedly embezzled a total of $67,890 from both accounts.

Apparently, the Board for the department approved paying the fire chief $800 per month to cover travel and other expenses as part of his departmental responsibilities, Ogden said.

Sonja Dedeaux was responsible for issuing those checks, and in that responsibility allegedly issued additional payroll checks each month above and beyond the Chief’s pay.

After determining there was probable cause to arrest Sonja Dedeaux, she was arrested at her home, located at 31 Honeycomb Rd., in Wiggins, Friday afternoon for embezzlement, Ogden said.

As the investigation continues, Ogden said he expects the amount embezzled from the department to increase, and there is the possibility that more arrests could take place. The funds stolen from the department have not been recovered.

Lumpkin said that the department’s Board appointed a new chief to the department about two weeks ago.