Couple pleads guilty in Fire Department theft

A St. Amant couple accused last year of stealing money from the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department has pleaded guilty to theft counts after having paid restitution of more than $63,000 last year, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Aaron Lee Gautreaux, 34, 13162 Spellman Lambert Road, St. Amant, a decorated volunteer firefighter and former longtime department treasurer, pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft over $1,500.

Gautreaux received a five-year prison sentence that was deferred and placed on three years’ supervised probation.

He was ordered to pay fines, costs and fees, stay away from the department and perform 100 hours of community service, according to court minutes.

“He admits his mistake. He admits he did wrong. He is very, very remorseful for it. He and his wife both,” defense attorney Pegram Mire Jr. said Wednesday.

Under a deferred sentence, Gautreaux would be eligible to have his conviction set aside if he complies with the conditions of his probation.

Gautreaux’s wife, Melissa Pearson Gautreaux, 35, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of theft between $100 and $300, a misdemeanor, court minutes say.

Neither person is headed to jail after the pleas, which they entered Monday before Judge Jesse LeBlanc of the 23rd Judicial District at the Ascension Parish Courthouse Annex in Gonzales.

Prosecutors originally brought felony theft counts against both Gautreauxes last year by bill of information but moved for recusal from the case on Dec. 17.

Kurt Wall, director of the state Attorney General’s Criminal Division, said Melissa Gautreaux pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor because “her culpability was much less than his (Aaron’s).”

Wall said Wednesday that Melissa Gautreaux was aware there was wrongdoing, but Aaron Gautreaux was the treasurer “and was more culpable in misleading the volunteer fire department.”

Wall, whose office prosecuted the case, said the Gautreauxes paid $63,330 to the department. He said the stolen money was used to pay personal bills.

The Gautreauxes were removed from the fire board upon their arrest in June, fire officials have said. Membership in the department has been suspended, pending criminal charges.