Cpl. Richard L. Bennett, 37, of Point Pleasant, was arrested Wednesday by Sgt. T.L. McComas of the Winfield Detachment on a felony charge of embezzlement, according to the state police. He then was taken to magistrate court and was arraigned before Magistrate Cheryl Ross.
It was alleged that between October and December 2008, Bennett embezzled money in excess of $1,000 from the Mason County Deputy Sheriff’s Association’s account, Sgt. Michael Baylous, public information officer with the state police, announced in a news release.
Bennett has been employed by the sheriff’s department for more than 10 years.
Sheriff David Anthony said Bennett had been placed on suspension without pay pending the outcome of the charges.
Sgt. E.B. Starcher of the Mason County Detachment said the investigation began when his office received a letter from Prosecuting Attorney Damon Morgan, who, along with former Sheriff Scott Simms, asked for an investigation of missing funds from the deputy sheriff’s association. Bennett served as treasurer of the organization.
According to the criminal complaint, in October Bennett received four $250 gift cards as a donation for the Shop with a Cop program, which is a program through which local children can do holiday shopping with the deputies. It is alleged that Bennett did not turn the cards in to the association, but allowed family members to use them.
The complaint states that when the members of the association discovered the donation had not been turned in, they questioned Bennett, then removed him as treasurer. Bennett had been treasurer of the association since January 2007, where he was responsible for the checkbook as well as all funds of the association.
Upon reviewing the checkbooks and accounting, it was discovered that Bennett allegedly had written three checks for cash totaling $1,275.
Because the Mason County troopers work with the deputies, Starcher sent the request to the state police headquarters in South Charleston, where it was assigned to McComas. He received the arrest warrant early Wednesday.
During arraignment, Ross set bond at $10,000, which Bennett posted through a bail bondsman.
According to West Virginia state code, embezzlement is classified as any officer, agent, clerk or servant of the state or county, district, school district or municipal corporation or of any banking institution or other corporation who fraudulently converts to his or her own use bullion, money, bank notes, drafts, security for money or effects property of any other person that has come into his or her possession. It is considered larceny.
If found guilty of the charge, Bennett could face a punishment of 1-10 years in a penitentiary or face up to one year in the regional jail and a $2,500 fine.