published Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Former Winchester official sentenced to 8 years

The former finance director for Winchester, Tenn., was sentenced to eight years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of more than $226,000 after pleading guilty to theft charges in connection with stolen public funds, records show.

Faye Morrow, 63, was arrested in November 2011 on charges of theft over $60,000, official misconduct, forgery and tampering with government records in the wake of a investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and an audit by the state Comptroller's Office, court records show.

Circuit Court Judge Thomas Graham ordered Morrow to report to the Franklin County Jail on July 19 or file an appropriate appeal or motion for a new trial, records show. She must serve 30 percent of her sentence, or a little more than 28 months, to be eligible for parole, records show.

Graham also ordered Morrow to pay $126,956.37 in restitution to the town of Winchester, $100,000 to the city's insurance company, and $350 to the TBI, records show.

Winchester city officials declined Tuesday to comment on the judgment but referred to a 21/2-page "victim's impact statement" filed with the court in the case.

City employees, particularly those who worked in the business office, suffered embarrassment and humiliation in the investigation and were angry over Morrow's actions, according to the statement, and the betrayal "was almost unbearable to them."

"The court needs to know that there is evidence that the discrepancies go back into the mid-'80s," the statement said. "It was not until Ms. Morrow's retirement that anyone realized that Franklin County had been sending a check from General Sessions, Circuit Court and, at times, Juvenile Court."

Morrow's arrest stems from the discovery of missing funds after she retired from her post in July 2010, state officials said.

TBI officials said employees in the city office noticed significantly more county fine and fee money showing up after Morrow's departure. TBI agents found that Morrow "took many checks written to the city from the county court clerk for General Sessions and Circuit Court fines and fees to a nearby bank and converted them into cashier's checks and cash."

The money never made it to city bank accounts, and the cashier's checks later were swapped for additional cash amounts taken from other city accounts, Comptroller's Division of Municipal Audit director Dennis Dycus said in a letter to the city in 2011.

"We are pleased with the judge's verdict, which we believe to be fair and just. Crimes involving public funds should be taken very seriously," Comptroller's Office spokesman Blake Fontenay said on Tuesday.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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