Melissa Guitreau, the wife of the French Settlement fire chief, was arrested after allegedly confessing to her husband that she embezzled money from the fire department. Her husband, Chief Alan Guitreau, turned her in after her confession. She was booked on counts of theft, forgery and malfeasance in office.
Money allegedly used for family business
Melissa worked as secretary and treasurer for the Livingston Parish Fire Protection District No. 8. Sheriff Jason Ard stated the embezzlement started in February 2017. The money was deposited into a family business account. Melissa and Alan own Guitreau Heating and Air of French Settlement.
Fire chief did not participate
The detectives located 29 checks totaling more than $225,000 of the fire district’s money. Melissa also allegedly forged names on the checks during the embezzlement scheme. She maintains her husband had no part in the theft.
The fire district receives most of its funding from property taxes. It filed no financial statements with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor in 2017.
Embezzlement differs from theft because the thief was entrusted with the assets that he or she stole. It is considered a serious crime in Louisiana, and it can be charged on the state or federal level, depending on the organization that was stolen from.
An embezzlement conviction can lead to serious prison time
In Louisiana, a person accused of embezzling $25,000 or more faces a sentence of between five and 20 years in prison and fines of up to $50,000. Those who have embezzled more than $1,000 and are charged at federal level can be fined $250,000 and sentenced to up to ten years in jail.
Defending yourself against embezzlement charges is not impossible. An experienced attorney may argue there is lack of evidence, lack of intent or the defendant was under duress when committing the crime.