Former Clerk Gets Prison Time

A former deputy chancery clerk in Jones County has been sentenced to prison for embezzlement.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced Tuesday that Natalie Brooke Ward pleaded guilty to the charges against her and was sentenced to 12 years in prison with 5 years suspended.

Officials say Ward’s guilty plea follows an investigation into the missing funds from the Jones County Land Redemption account.

It was determined by the State Auditor’s investigation that Ward did willfully divert funds for her personal use from the account beginning in November 2004 and lasting through January 2008.

Ward was employed in the Chancery Clerk’s Office from August 1, 2002 – February 13, 2008, when she resigned as deputy Chancery Clerk.

A demand was issued from the State Auditor for repayment in the amount of $307,985.48 for funds missing from the Land Redemption Account and the Judge has ordered restitution for the embezzled funds.

In addition to the principal amount, $218,024.59, the demanded amount includes $57,271.37 in interest calculated from the date the funds were taken and $32,689.52 in investigative costs incurred by the State Auditor’s Office, all totaling $307,985.48.

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