Lazy Acres, Arkansas Fire Department Gets Embezzled Money Back

LAZY ACRES, Ark. (AP) -- The woman who kept the books for the Lazy Acres Volunteer Fire Department and was accused of embezzling more than $65,000 has paid back the money, fire department president Jim Opel said.

Angella Ann Dickerson, 48, of the Lazy Acres community in northern Marion County was arrested in February and charged with theft, obtaining a signature by fraud, issuing a false financial statement and falsifying business records.

''Our fire department recently received a cashier's check from her but our board members still believe she needs to spend at least some time in jail,'' Opel said.

Marion County deputy prosecutor Kenford Carter said plea negotiations are ongoing with Dickerson's attorney. She is next due in court at 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Much of the money came to the department through U.S. Homeland Security Department grants, Marion County Sheriff Carl McBee said. Opel said the fire department was approved for a $50,000 grant from the federal Homeland Security Department to buy a 1,000-gallon fire-fighting pumper vehicle before Dickerson was charged and the money was received March 18.

Officials at the fire department, located near Protem, Mo., on Bull Shoals Lake, became alarmed when they discovered notices of unpaid bills related to the fire department after they had already approved and signed the checks to pay the bills, McBee said.

After contacting bank officials, it was discovered that most of the fire department's account balances were either empty or near empty, an investigator's report said.

McBee said Dickerson was named department treasurer in 2001 and was the only person responsible for the fire department's money.

Authorities allege Dickerson altered computer records to hide deficient bank accounts. McBee said she had also written at least 16 checks totaling more than $38,000 from the fire department bank accounts to the Blue Water Resort, which he said Dickerson owns.