State Auditor Recovers Over $30,000 In Panola County

April 3, 2014

JACKSON- State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced the recovery and return of more than $30,000 during two check presentations in Panola County today.

Coles Point Volunteer Fire Dept check presentationPickering presented the City of Sardis with a check for $21,204.64 following the investigation of Odessa Johnson, a former city clerk.

City of Sardis check presentationPickering also presented the Coles Point Volunteer Fire Department (CPVFD) in Batesville with a check totaling $10,000. This was recovered as a result of an embezzlement investigation into Martha Chrestman, former Secretary and Treasurer for the Board of Commissioner for the CPVFD.

Pickering was joined by Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney during these presentations.

“These individuals misused their positions and stole from the taxpayers of their local communities,” Pickering said. “I am happy to be able to return these funds to the City of Sardis and the Coles Point Volunteer Fire Department and fully intend to pursue all avenues available to me to obtain full recovery of every cent that was taken.”

As city clerk, Johnson, 53, embezzled $28,033.95 from January 2006 through April 2009. In 2012, she was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison and five years of post-release supervision and ordered to pay $30,620.03 in restitution, which includes interest. She previously repaid $5,000 in 2009.

Chrestman, 64, embezzled a total of $30,973.73 in public funds from CPVFD during a four-year period from January 2007 to March 2011. On January 7, 2014 Chrestman pled guilty to embezzlement and is scheduled to be sentenced on April 10.