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Former Bonanza treasurer avoids prison time, pays $38,000 back to city

by Monica Brich | June 8, 2023 at 11:57 a.m.
Laurie Lynn Denham

FORT SMITH — The daughter of the mayor of Bonanza and former treasurer for the city has avoided prison time, but will have to pay restitution as part of a plea deal for the theft of thousands of dollars while she worked for the city.

Laurie Lynn Denham, 57, of Bonanza was charged with one count of theft of about $38,000, a class B felony, according to a news release from county Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue. She was arrested in December after Circuit Judge Stephen Tabor found probable cause existed for the arrest Nov. 23.

Dwight Roam of Arkansas State Police wrote in an arrest affidavit signed Nov. 22 that Denham was employed as Bonanza’s treasurer between Jan. 1, 2018, and Aug. 8, 2022.

Auditors asked Denham to provide documentation of the city’s expenses. They noticed “many discrepancies” in which the documents differed from the original documents a bank provided, according to the affidavit. This led to the auditors further investigating the matter, as well as requesting a criminal investigation.

The investigation reportedly revealed Denham issued extra checks to herself from Bonanza’s accounts “over and above” her normal weekly paychecks between 2018 and Aug. 8, 2022, according to Roam.

“In some cases, the city documents showed to be paid out to different entities than what was listed on the bank statements,” Roam wrote. “The auditors discovered that this was because the checks were altered in the city database after the checks were deposited in the bank.”

Roam said multiple checks were missing from the audit as well, and some of the information provided to the auditors was covered or redacted so as to hide whom checks were paying. Bonanza’s Staples credit card was also used to purchase “numerous” e-gift cards from stores such as JCPenney, Ulta Beauty and Bed Bath & Beyond that were delivered to Denham’s personal email account. These gift cards totaled $21,334.

Denham was interviewed Aug. 8, according to Roam. The legislative audit put the actual amount of salary over payments to Denham as Bonanza’s administrative assistant at $16,708, bringing her reported total of unauthorized disbursements to $38,042.

Denham was reportedly facing a 20-year sentence before pleading guilty and taking a plea deal.

Court documents show Denham has already paid the $38,042 back to the city. Part of her plea deal requires $24,050 in restitution also be paid to the division of legislative audit.


Thomas Saccente contributed to this report. Monica Brich may be reached by email at


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