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 Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue. She was arrested in December.
Dwight Roam of the 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. Auditors requested a criminal investigation.
The investigation 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 who the 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.
The legislative audit put the actual amount of salary overpayments to Denham as Bonanza's administrative assistant at $16,708, bringing her total of unauthorized disbursements to $38,042.
Denham was facing a 20-year sentence before pleading guilty.
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.