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Former Tenn. volunteer fire chief indicted for theft of department funds

Austin Lewallen, the former chief of the Paint Rock Volunteer Fire Department, is accused of using at least $13,700 for personal purchases

Paint Rock Fire Department

Tennessee Comptroller’s Office

By Sarah Roebuck

HELENWOOD, Tenn. — The former chief of the Paint Rock Volunteer Fire Department in Scott County has been indicted following an investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, officials said in a press release.

Austin Lewallen was indicted in November on charges of theft of property exceeding $10,000 and fraudulent use of a debit card, officials announced on Tuesday.

According to the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, investigators began their review of the department after Scott County reported concerns of questionable financial activity within the VFD.

The investigation revealed that Lewallen, the former fire chief, misappropriated at least $13,716.71 from the Paint Rock VFD between May 2022 and January 2023.

Lewallen is accused of taking most of the funds through unauthorized bank and ATM cash withdrawals. Additionally, he is accused of using the VFD’s debit card for personal expenses and even settled a utility bill using the Paint Rock VFD’s resources.

The investigation also uncovered an additional $4,700 in suspect cash withdrawals, for which there were no supporting receipts to confirm whether the funds were used for the benefit of the VFD.

Lewallen was dismissed from his position as fire chief on March 27, 2023.

“During the time this theft occurred, Paint Rock VFD did not have an active board of directors,” said Comptroller Mumpower. “Once Lewallen was removed as fire chief, a board of directors was formed. I encourage the board to establish firm internal controls to ensure money is properly handled and all disbursements are properly documented.”