LINCOLN CO, NC - The NC State Bureau of Investigation assisted Lincolnton PD in an embezzlement investigation involving a former Lincolnton Fire Department Assistant Chief.
The police department reported on September 17, 2015 that $30,000 was missing from the Lincoln Co. Chapter of the Fire Fighters Burned Children's Fund Inc.
Former Lincolnton Fire Department Assistant Chief William V. Fortenberry who was the treasurer for the Firefighters Burned Children's Fund had embezzled almost $30,000, according to the police dept.
Investigators also discovered Fortenberry had been the treasurer for the Pisgah United Methodist Church-United Men's Organization and embezzled almost $5,000 from them.
On February 8, 2016 the Lincoln Co. Grand Jury charged Fortenberry with 9 counts of embezzlement. He was arrested and received a secured bond.
Former assistant fire chief indicted for embezzlement
On Tuesday, July 5, Fortenberry pleaded guilty to 9 counts of embezzlement. He received two 6-17 months suspend sentences with a 6 months active sentence, which he will be serve in increments of three, two month sentences and under work release, according to the police dept.
He was given 30 months probation under regular conditions and was ordered to pay restitution to the Firefighters Burned Children's Fund Inc. in the amount of $27,906..85 and $4,809.40 to Pisgah United Methodist Church.
Fortenberry was also ordered to pay cost of court and not to hold a position of trust over money during his probation period.
Fox 46 Charlotte got reaction from the community and found out what is being done to make sure this doesn't happen again.
Patricia Linkous knows firsthand how much good the Firefighters Burned Children Fund can do for families. Her youngest child, Remy, was severely burned one and a half years ago when a crockpot of hot cider fell on top of him.
"I don't know what we would have done without them. They helped us focus on Remy and getting him better and we didn't have to worry about the money we needed for traveling, eating, and paying bills," said Linkous.
That's why, when she heard the former Lincolnton Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief, William Fortenberry, stole $30,000 dollars from the Lincoln County fund, she was shocked.
"How did that person have it in his heart to steal money from people in need? It's mind boggling. I don't know what to say," said Linkous.
The Lincoln County chapter of the Firefighters Burn Children Fund told Fox46 Charlotte it is drastically changing the way it does business to make sure the donations people give out of the goodness of their hearts go where they're supposed to go
"We’re going beyond the standard financial report. We’re going through the financial statements from the bank line by line every month with the group as a whole," said Dion Burleson, a spokesperson for the Lincoln Co. Firefighters Burned Children Fun.
The $30,000 will be returned to the fund as part of Fortenberry's sentence.
Right now, the two trailers outside the Denver Fire Department are full of cans. It’s a sign the community is still actively donating. Each trailer brings in about %500 dollars.
"Understand this was the actions of one person and not the actions of a group of people. That action does not reflect the core values of this organization or anyone in this group," said Burleson.
Restoring trust one can at a time.