UPDATE at 10:08 a.m. on 9/18/19 with more information: The Hunt County Office of Homeland Security released a statement Wednesday morning about the arrests of Chad and Paula Michele Tanner concerning the theft of funds from the Commerce E-Corps.
The office indicated the investigation stemmed from several complaints from different persons and entities that there seemed to be a misuse of money belonging to the agency.
David Alexander, Hunt County Homeland Security investigator said he interviewed numerous persons inside and outside the organization as well as reviewing a great amount of financial reports, expenditures, bank statements and other documents.
Chad Tanner had been elected the Chief of Commerce E-Corps in December, 2017 and Paula Tanner, Secretary/Treasurer at the same time and they remained in their positions until the end of August, 2018.
No other individuals were implicated in the investigation.
“The shame about cases like this, and the one at Merit VFD, was not only what occurred was illegal and shameful, but it causes the public to lose trust in these organizations, which is unfortunate because they do a good and needed service for the public,” Alexander said, adding the Commerce E-Corps completely cooperated with the investigation.
ORIGINAL STORY: The former chief and treasurer of the Commerce Emergency Corps have been indicted on charges of theft,
Chad Lee Tanner, 50, and his wife Paula Michele Tanner, 46, were taken into custody overnight in Hopkins County as of Tuesday afternoon were being held in custody at the Hopkins County Jail in lieu of $30,000 bond each.
Hunt County District Attorney Noble D. Walker Jr. said the pair were indicted Friday by the Hunt County grand jury, each on one count of theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000 from the Commerce E Corps. The indictments were issued sealed, pending the arrest of the couple.
“The case was brought by the Hunt County Department of Homeland Security,” Walker said.
Hunt County Director of Homeland Security/Emergency Management Richard Hill said the Tanners were arrested through the cooperation with the Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office.
“They were taken into custody at the Cooper Lake State Park,” Hill said. “David Alexander was the lead investigator on it.”
Hill said Alexander would be issuing additional information about the case Wednesday morning.
Hearings on arraignments concerning the indictments had not yet been scheduled Tuesday through the 354th District Court.
Attempts to contact representatives with the Commerce Emergency Corps concerning the incident were not immediately returned.
The charge is a third degree felony, punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of from two to 20 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.
Hill explained it is not the first time such an incident has taken place in Hunt County.
“This is very similar to what happened with the Merit Fire Department,” Hill said.
The former chief of the Merit Volunteer Fire Department pleaded guilty in November, 2018 to stealing thousands of dollars from the department, while the same charge was dropped against the his wife, who was the department’s former treasurer.
Wilfred Lewis Barber and his wife Connie Lou Barber of Celeste were indicted on one count of theft of between $2,500 and $30,000.
Wilfred Barber pleaded guilty to the charge, took responsibility and was to make efforts to pay back the money.
Wilfred Barber was placed on 10 years of probation, with 180 days jail time up front and the charge against Connie Lou Barber was dismissed.
The Barbers were the subjects of indictments issued by the grand jury in September, 2018.
The indictments alleged the Barbers, “pursuant to one scheme and continuing course of conduct,” stole the money between Sept. 30, 2016 and July 22, 2017.
The case against the Barbers was also presented by the Hunt County Homeland Security/Fire Marshal’s Office.
The Tanners were also the owners of the former Tanners Smokehouse Barbecue restaurant in Greenville, which closed operations in July of last year.