UPDATE - Hendrickson plead guilty and was forced to pay $50,000 back to the fire department.
WHITELAND, Ind. -- A former employee with the Whiteland Fire Department is charged with stealing tens of thousands of dollars.
Deputies arrested the 52-year-old suspect Divonna Hendrickson in Johnson County on five counts of theft Wednesday.
The suspect worked for nearly a decade as the secretary treasurer at the fire department.
“The best way I could name this is she was cooking the books,” said Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox.
According to the affidavit, for four and a half years starting in 2013, Hendrickson recorded false information in the fire department checkbooks to offset internal theft totaling $49,300.10.
“For the books of the fire department, she made it look like money was going to vendors and not herself,” said Cox.
“I was surprised, grateful and sad. I’m grateful we found the problem. I’m sad with what we did find,” said Whiteland town manager Norm Gabehart.
For years, the fire department operated under a separate taxing district. As Whiteland continues to grow, managers at city hall began looking at the fire department’s books in an effort to merge them with the city and quickly spotted some major financial discrepancies.
“We found within the first month inconsistencies in the finances and within 24 hours the number that was in question was growing quickly,” said Gabehart.
The Whiteland town manager says changes have been made to ensure similar thefts don’t happen again. While the former fire chief in Whiteland denied any knowledge of the embezzlement, the sheriff says Hendrickson’s alleged crimes unfortunately can erode taxpayer trust.
“It’s disappointing when you see people, instead of doing what they should be with the money, are padding their own pockets and that's why we take it seriously and that's why she was here in the jail,” said Cox.
Hendrickson was arrested on a warrant on Wednesday and was released from jail on a $600 bond.