Ex-secretary at Coeburn Middle to be arraigned on embezzlement charges

Stephen Igo • Nov 16, 2007 at 12:00 AM

WISE — A former school secretary will be arraigned Monday on charges she stole upwards of $100,000 in school funds.

Patricia Bryant, 44, 12858 River Lane, Coeburn, was indicted this week by a Wise County grand jury on eight counts of embezzlement. Each count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Bryant was employed as a secretary at Coeburn Middle School until her resignation on July 1. She is charged with stealing school funds during a four-year period from June 2002 to October of this year. An audit of the school’s finances commenced last year after the school’s principal reported possible inconsistencies in the school’s fiscal accounts to school division officials.

Investigators from the Virginia State Police and Coeburn Police Department conducted a joint probe of the allegations.

Wise County Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Adrian Collins said Friday he couldn’t comment “too much” on the Bryant case but confirmed the former school secretary is alleged to have stolen “right at” $100,000.

Bryant is represented by attorney Richard Kennedy of the Sturgill & Kennedy law firm in Wise.

“We have no comment at this time,” he said Friday. “The court process has just started.”

In other indictments handed down by the grand jury, Robert Kevin Gouge, 45, address not provided, has been charged with numerous counts involving a fatal car accident in late May.

Gouge is accused of two prior counts of driving under the influence — including an Aug. 8, 2000, DUI conviction in Sullivan County — and driving while impaired either late May 26 or early May 27, then crashing the vehicle in which Jerry Counts, age and address not provided, died from injuries sustained in the mishap.

Because of his alleged impaired state while driving, Gouge is accused of involuntary manslaughter in Counts’ death and a number of other charges associated with the incident.

Another passenger in the vehicle, Regina Ann Pridemore, 39, address not provided, was also indicted by the grand jury on numerous charges involving allegations she attempted to mislead the police investigation into the fatal crash.

Other cases include Samantha Lynn Bartley, 26, P.O. Box 1179, St. Paul, charged with one count of making a false statement on a consent form required by state or federal law in an attempt to purchase a firearm, a Class V felony carrying a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

The grand jury handed down 18 counts involving welfare fraud against Bernice Fannon, 68, 110 Fifth St. NW, Coeburn. The allegations range from making false statements to apply for public assistance, receiving public assistance based on alleged false claims, and failing to report changed circumstances.

The maximum penalties on the charges range from a low of 10 years in prison on some charges to a maximum of 20 years in prison on others.

Similar welfare fraud allegations were handed down against other individuals in Wise County including Marcie Evans, 211 E. 26th St. South, Unit No. 1, Big Stone Gap, on seven counts; Tammy Giza, 31, 12142 Redford Road, Coeburn, on eight counts; and Carolyn Neice, 36, 6185 Locust Grove Road, Lot 29, Wise, on four counts.

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