GONZALES — State prosecutors in Ascension Parish have brought felony theft charges against a St. Amant couple accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from a volunteer fire department, court filings show.
Melissa Pearson Gautreaux, 34, and Aaron Lee Gautreaux, 33, both of 13162 Spellman Lambert Road, St. Amant, have each been charged with single counts of felony theft of more than $1,500 from the St. Amant Volunteer Fire Department, according to a bill of information.
The bill of information, a formal charging document filed by prosecutors, says the thefts occurred between Jan. 5, 2010, and May 25.
District Attorney Ricky Babin of the 23rd Judicial District, which includes Ascension, Assumption and St. James parishes, said he brought charges despite any restitution that might be made to the Fire Department.
“That’s a civil matter. It has nothing to do with the criminal charges,” Babin said.
St. Amant Fire Chief James LeBlanc said Wednesday the family of the couple did make restitution of the original $64,000 reported missing, but an additional $3,700 has been found missing since then.
LeBlanc said the department worked with the Gautreaux family to get the money back because the department had bills to pay. He said the Gautreaux family is well known in the community and wanted to help the department.
But LeBlanc said he does not know what will happen to Aaron and Melissa Gautreaux criminally.
“I can tell you there is no talk between the St. Amant Fire Department and the District Attorney’s Office of any type of plea bargain. None at all,” LeBlanc said.
Sheriff’s deputies arrested the Gautreauxes on June 6.
LeBlanc and other fire officials discovered bills were not being paid, despite bogus monthly finance reports saying otherwise, and found money missing from department accounts.
Sheriff’s deputies said the couple allegedly made the fraudulent transactions to pay for their cable television bills, car notes and other personal expenses.
The couple also obtained an unauthorized credit card in the department’s name, deputies said.
At the time of his arrest, Aaron Gautreaux was the longtime treasurer for the Fire Department’s Board of Directors.
Melissa Gautreaux was named board secretary in January.
LeBlanc said Aaron and Melissa Gautreaux were removed from their board positions upon their arrest in June. Their membership in the department has been suspended pending the outcome of the criminal cases, he said.
Prosecutors filed the bill of information against the couple on July 2.
Babin said arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 17. During an arraignment, defendants make their initial plea before a judge.
The Gautreauxes have been out of jail on bail of $15,000 each.