Two members of Natural Bridge Vol. Fire Dept. facing charges related to misuse of departmental funds

Former chief, treasurer facing embezzlement charges

By Samantha Smith - Digital Content Producer, Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. - Two members of the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Dept. are facing charges, according to department officials. 

Investigators said former Natural Bridge Fire Chief Justin Garrett, 27, and former treasurer Robert Newman, 54, are facing embezzlement and conspiracy to embezzle charges.

Officials say the charges are related to the misuse of departmental funds and reportedly stem from irregularities found during a routine financial audit required by the county and an investigation by the Rockbridge County Sheriff's Office. 

Investigators said from May 2018 to May 2019, Newman stole $166,000 from the department. They also said Garrett knew about Newman's actions during May and June of 2018.

Newman is facing 13 counts of embezzlement and 13 counts of conspiracy to embezzle. Garrett is facing two counts of each charge.

The fire department has been cooperating with law enforcement. Authorities say responses to fire and EMS emergencies will continue normally. 

Rockbridge County Fire-Rescue Chief Nathan Ramsey said the county will work closely with the Natural Bridge department to monitor spending. There are also new procedures in place, including requiring at least two signatures when signing off on check.

The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to call Rockbridge County Fire-Rescue Chief Nathan Ramsey at 540-572-4213.

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