Brenda Bickford received an eight-year prison sentence Friday for embezzling approximately $1.9 million from the Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission, the Attorney General’s Office reported.
Bickford, the former executive secretary of the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, also was ordered to pay $1.8 million in restitution.
Judge Jerome Winsburg, who handled the case after all 21st Judicial District Court judges recused themselves, suspended an additional five-year term.
Bickford, 61, will be on probation for five years after her release from prison, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
In June, the Hammond woman, who served as the commission’s recording secretary for 16 years, pleaded guilty to two counts of felony theft.
Last year, she was arrested by the Attorney General’s Office, which accused her of writing checks between 2001 and 2010 from the commission to a company she had created.
The warrant for Bickford’s arrest says she falsified invoices, forged signatures on checks and deposited the money in her account.
The checks were written to B&B Court Reporting Services, which was created by Bickford, according to the warrant.
She admitted to using the money for personal and
family expenses, the warrant says.
The matter came to light after the commission’s attorney noticed that charges for legal fees seemed high. An audit of the commission by the Office of Financial Institutions uncovered the irregularities, officials said.
The Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission acts as a governing authority for the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center, which is funded by taxes and court costs.