A school employee in Tazewell County has been sentenced to five years in prison on charges of embezzling more than $350,000 in school funding.
Commonwealth Attorney Dennis Lee said Willie Kathy Hicks, 56, of 301 Paramount Drive, North Tazewell, has been sentenced in the Tazewell County Circuit Court to five counts of embezzlement by a public officer.
Lee said Hicks was sentenced by the Honorable Jack S. Hurley and received a total sentence of 35 years. Hurley suspended 30 years and ordered that Hicks serve a total of five years in prison. In addition, Hicks was order to pay restitution to Tazewell County Public Schools in the amount of $359,867.36.
At the sentencing hearing, Lee said evidence presented indicated that Hicks had been employed with the Tazewell County Public Schools System for approximately 10 years prior to her being charged. In the time period between 2007 and 2014, Lee said Hicks embezzled funds provided to her in her official capacity from a variety of sources, including checks from school system retirees for insurance payments, funds for cheerleading, bake sales, and other school activities. Lee said the theft came to light when bank accounts for Tazewell Middle School were discovered to have been depleted.
The subsequent investigation by the Virginia State Police revealed that Hicks had systematically diverted checks, cash and money orders into her personal checking account. During the sentencing, Lee said Hicks admitted her guilt and indicated she embezzled these funds due to personal tragedies in her family.
“This prosecution was a joint effort by our office, Virginia State Police and Tazewell County Public Schools. Hicks systematically stole from retirees, school children and the taxpayers of Tazewell County and a lengthy prison sentence was appropriate. This result is a direct reflection of the hard work that went into this investigation by all agencies involved,” said Melanie Menefee, Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney.
The case was investigated by the Virginia State Police. This case was prosecuted by Commonwealth's Attorney Dennis Lee and Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Melanie Menefee.