Volunteer FD members charged for misuse of funds

BUENA VISTA, Va. (WDBJ7) - Two members of the Natural Bridge Volunteer Fire Department have been charged with crimes related to misuse of department funds.

Justin Garrett (L)/Robert Newman mugshots courtesy Rockbridge Regional Jail

The county says the charges are a result of irregularities discovered during a routine, county-required financial audit and subsequent investigation by the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office.

Rockbridge County Fire and Rescue Chief Nathan Ramsey identifies the two as 27-year-old Fire Chief Justin Garrett, charged with two counts of embezzlement and two additional counts of conspiracy to embezzle, and treasurer Robert Newman, 54, charged with 13 counts of embezzlement and two counts of conspiracy to embezzle.

Garrett stepped down from his position and continues, but continues to serve as a volunteer with Rockbridge. Newman was voted out of the department by the Rockbridge department board.

Newman and Garrett were arrested on September 5 and released on bond the same day.

$166,000 was taken from the department between May of 2018 and May of 2019. According to Ramsey, the money taken was done so by Garrett and Newman through personal checks. The money was used to pay for medical bills and everyday expenses.

Rockbridge Volunteer Fire department has its own budget but also receives $60,000 per year from Rockbridge County's operating budget. That money is given to the volunteer department in quarterly increments.

Going forward, the department will have more eyes on any checks written from the Rockbridge department account.

Garrett and Newman will appear in court next on October 21.

Copyright 2019/WDBJ7. All rights reserved.