Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn announced this week that a sheriffs dept. employee has been placed on administrative suspension as the result of an investigation into the diversion of county funds for the employee's personal use.
Blackburn said the checks and balances system of the county grants and clerks offices noticed an anomaly in an invoice and brought it to the sheriffs attention. An internal investigation was begun, and when sufficient probable cause had been developed that a crime had been committed, the sheriffs office hired an independent investigator to conduct the investigation.
On Monday, an employee admitted that approximately $5,500 had been diverted from county funds when the employee allegedly created false invoices and submitted them for personal reimbursement.
Blackburn said the case will be turned over to the Big Horn County Attorney's Office for review and formal criminal charges. Blackburn would not release the name of the suspect at this time because formal charges had not yet been filed.
"I want the public to know, first and foremost, that nobody is above the law," the sheriff said. "I don't care how much I like somebody or the position they hold, I will do my duty that the voters have elected me for, including prosecuting a county officer if it is warranted. Second of all, I also won't hide the facts of any case involving my department, and when something is credible and serious, as in this case, I will be the first to bring it forward.
"I regret this black mark on the sheriffs department and I expect the remaining officers and staff to work hard to regain the trust of the public we serve. I hope people will realize that police officers are human and they are also not exempt from the law."
Blackburn said more information will be released when charges are filed.
"This is also a good reminder that good people make bad decisions, and it's easy to judge from a distance, but until we've walked in another person's shoes it's difficult to understand those motives," he said. "Nonetheless, I have a job to do, and I will do it.
"I would like to thank the county commissioners, the clerk's office, the grants office and the county attorney's office for their support during this investigation."
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