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Former county administrator sentenced to 20 years

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

Former county administrator Crista Madden has been sentenced to two concurrent 20-year prison terms for embezzling $753,889 in funds from a previous position in Franklin County, according to a release from the office of state attorney general Steve Marshall. She has also been ordered to pay full restitution to Franklin County.

Madden, 49, pleaded guilty to two felony ethics violations on March 19 in Franklin County Circuit Court.

The violations were use of her official position for personal gain and use of public equipment for personal gain.

Madden was administrator for the Chilton County Commission for six months before being placed on leave after an emergency meeting on March 1.

Prior to that she had spent 25 years in Franklin County, including time as administrator there.

According to Marshall’s office, in December of 2007 Madden began a scheme by which she generated false records of checks and then made the originals payable to herself. She would create a false purchase order for a fictitious vendor and generate a check payable to that company.

Before printing the check, she placed a strip of tape on the paper where the name for payee would be printed.

For county records, she would make a copy of the check that showed the company name. She then removed the tape from the original and reprinted the check with her own name listed as payee. The check was then deposited into her personal account.

She continued this scheme until she left the position in July of 2017, depositing a total of $753,889 in various private bank accounts that she held.

The matter was discovered in an audit by the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and investigated by special agents of the attorney general’s office. After being confronted by special agents, Madden gave a full confession to both offenses.

“The sentence imposed on Crista Madden of many years in prison properly reflects the importance of deterring public employees from exploiting their offices for personal gain,” Marshall said. “The people of Alabama deserve honest and trustworthy service from public employees and officials, and as attorney general I am committed to prosecute those who abuse their positions for illegal personal gain. For nearly a decade, this defendant systematically plundered funds that belonged to Franklin County and betrayed her public trust.

“Due to the vigilance of the Examiners of Public Accounts, her crimes were discovered and reported to my office. I want to commend the outstanding work by assistant attorney general Katie Langer and Chris Moore of my Criminal Trials Division and special agents of the newly-formed Cybercrime Lab in my Investigations Division for bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Commission Chairman Allen Caton said after Madden was placed on leave that there was “no suspicion” that she had committed the same crimes here in Chilton County.

Caton said that the responsibilities of the county administrator with the Chilton County Commission differed from those Madden had in Franklin County in the same role.

“The division of labor in our office likely prevented [Madden] from doing the same thing here,” he said. “During her time here she did not handle the same accounts. She wasn’t over the vendors here. We have people that make deposits and pay vendors. She was over [those people]; she didn’t make any of our deposits.”

Madden submitted a letter of resignation to the Chilton County Commission on March 15.