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A year-long fraud audit into the finances of the City of Madison resulted in Joanna M. Bias and Tammy L. Hill pleading guilty to felony embezzlement charges.

The pair were charged by the auditor’s Special Prosecuting Attorney Steve Connolly by way of a felony Information alleging they engaged in a fraud scheme to skim city funds, receive extra payroll checks and be paid for leave for which they were not entitled.

Bias was sentenced by Boone County Circuit Judge William Thompson to a suspended 1-10 years in prison; she is additionally ordered to pay the city $34,973.02 in restitution. Hill received a similar sentence with $39,726.06 owed to Madison. Both women received seven years of probation.

“We’ve resolved two of the cases and look forward to resolving the rest of the matters in the coming weeks and getting Madison back on sound footing,” Connolly said on Tuesday morning.

In an unrelated, but similar case, Christian Nova Elliott, a former bookkeeper for the Lizemore Volunteer Fire Department in Clay County, pleaded guilty last week to felony charges of forgery and falsifying accounts. Elliott was indicted by a Clay County grand jury in November of last year.

Elliott faces 1-10 years on each count at a sentencing hearing set for March 30 before Circuit Judge Richard Facemire.

As part of her plea agreement, Elliott also agreed to pay restitution of $8,896.34 to the state, as well as $2,782.37 to the fire department.

“When people are in positions of trust with public funds, they must be held accountable when they breach that trust,” State Auditor J.B. McCuskey said via press release. “Working together — every taxpayer — to report fraud when it occurs will have an enormous deterrent effect on this systemic problem. When you write that check for a speeding ticket, or you pay your trash bill, or you put money in that fire department fundraiser, you should expect that it is going to provide the service you paid for and not lining someone’s pocket because they were allowed access to those funds.”

To report state or local fraud, call 833-WV-FRAUD or email wv fraud@wvsao.gov or file an online complaint at www.wvsao.gov.

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at pperry@hdmediallc.com or at 304-307-2401.