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The fire chief in Colorado City, Ariz., which is home to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has been indicted on 30 counts related to misusing public money.
Jacob L. Barlow has been issued a summons to appear Aug. 23 in a Mohave County, Ariz., courtroom.
Deputy Mohave County Attorney James Schoppmann declined to say Tuesday if other indictments have been issued in the case. Indictments issued by Arizona grand juries are not made public until the defendant is notified.
A search warrant served by Mohave County authorities in April 2010 said they were looking for evidence Barlow, 55, and Colorado City Manager David Darger, 41, made thousands of dollars in illegal money transfers to themselves as well as purchases for themselves or family with Fire Department money.
But Barlow's attorney, Michael L. Piccarreta, said those purchases were legitimate expenses for a volunteer Fire Department that sometimes has to reimburse for travel and other expenses.
"The county either didn't want to or didn't figure out these were lawful expenses," Piccarreta said. "I guess we'll have to show them."
The search warrant said Barlow and Darger transferred Fire Department money to themselves totaling $30,000 per man and deposited it in a St. George bank. The bank account was in the Fire Department's name, but the search warrant said such an account violates Arizona law.
The warrant also listed purchases with Fire Department funds investigators considered suspicious, including hundreds of dollars in steak and seafood bought at St. George restaurants, accounting software, stays at Lava Hot Springs resort in Idaho and a leather sofa.
Barlow is charged with 27 counts of violating the duty of a custodian of public money, two counts of participating in a criminal syndicate and one count of assisting in a criminal syndicate. All counts are felonies.
The counts of participating in a criminal syndicate are the most serious charges and typically carry five years in prison. The other charges typically carry the possibility of 2 1/2 years in prison.
Most Colorado City residents, along with residents in its sister town of Hildale, Utah, are members of the FLDS, which believes in polygamy as part of its religion. Barlow was indicted Aug. 4, the same day FLDS President Warren Jeffs was convicted by a Texas jury of sexual abuse of a child and aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The next week Jeffs was sent to prison for life.
Schoppmann said the timing of Barlow's indictment was a coincidence. Mohave County grand juries typically issue indictments on Thursdays, he said.
The Colorado City Fire Department also provides protection to Hildale. Schoppmann said the department is largely volunteer but Barlow is a paid employee.