La. chief turns wife in for embezzling $225K from fire dept.

Chief Alan Guitreau's wife, Melissa, was arrested and accused of embezzling $225,000 after her husband reported her confession to him

By Caroline Grueskin
The Advocate

FRENCH SETTLEMENT, La. — The wife of the French Settlement fire chief was arrested Monday and accused of embezzling $225,000 after her husband reported her confession to him, according to the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office.

Melissa Guitreau, 46, who acted as the secretary and treasurer of Livingston Parish Fire Protection District No. 8, was booked on felony counts of theft, forgery and malfeasance in office, according to online booking records.

"As you can imagine, my world was turned upside down today," Chief Alan Guitreau said, noting he alerted the Sheriff's Office on Monday as soon as his wife confessed to him she had taken the money.

Sheriff Jason Ard said it appears the money had been embezzled from the fire district's account since February 2017.

"It’s believed that money was then placed into a personal family business account to help keep that business afloat," Ard said in a news release. "So far into this investigation, detectives with LPSO Financial Crimes have located 29 checks totaling more than $225,000. It appears names may have been forged in the process of taking funds, too."

Melissa Guitreau maintains she acted alone, Ard said. She and her husband own Guitreau Heating and Air of French Settlement.

Fire Protection District No. 8 covers the French Settlement area but is politically distinct from the village. The fire district is funded primarily by a property tax that raises around $200,000 annually, according to a statement of its 2016 finances.

Chief Guitreau said he is calling for an independent review of the fire district's finances.

"As many of you may already know, as chief, I do not handle any of the district funds. We have a board for that. I will continue to do what I know is right and will continue to provide the best in fire protection for those in LPFPD No. 8," Alan Guitreau said.

The fire district is listed as out-of-compliance with its annual audit obligation because no statements were filed of the district's 2017 finances with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

Melissa Guitreau, who was being held Monday evening in the Livingston Parish Detention Center in lieu of $45,000 bail, is the second spouse of a French Settlement public official to be arrested within the past week.

Tammy Brignac, wife of French Settlement Police Chief Harry Brignac, was arrested Friday after authorities said she was caught driving the village police car with a suspended license.

Tammy Brignac was restricted by a state judge from driving as part of a no contest plea to driving while intoxicated.

Booking records show Tammy Brignac remained in jail Monday without bond.

Copyright 2018 The Advocate

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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