On Friday, it was announced that a former employee with the DeSoto Parish District Attorney’s Office had pleaded guilty to stealing money intended to be paid to the District Attorney’s Office. 36-year-old Melanie Barber of Converse, Louisiana pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud. According to the plea, Barber worked for the DeSoto Parish District Attorney’s Office from April 1, 2002 until she was fired on February 24, 2014. She served as the Issuing Worthless Checks/Arraignment Secretary.
The Attorney’s Office runs several programs, such as pretrial diversion, traffic diversion and a worthless check program allowing participants to avoid court appearances by meeting certain conditions. Participants must keep their record clean for a year and pay a fee via cashier’s check or money order to the Attorney’s Office.
From 2004 to 2014, Barber negotiated at least 580 money orders made payable to the 42nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office. She negotiated at the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office, bank and other retailers and lied to the employees claiming that the District Attorney’s Office would be dropping the charges against the payee and she needed to refund their money.
The employees believed the defendant and cashed the money orders. Barber stole the money for her own personal use. Barber also obtained blank money orders from program participants and put her name as the payee, before depositing the funds into her bank account. To conceal the theft, the defendant marked the cases in the records as nolle pros, charges rejected or as paid.
At the time of sentencing, Melanie Barber will face up to 20 years in prison and three years of supervised release. Barber is scheduled to be sentenced on July 2, 2018. Additional details have been made available here.