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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Authorities charge Bonanza administrative assistant with Class B felony in theft of city funds

Laurie Denham

The woman who officials say embezzled funds from the south Sebastian town of Bonanza for the second time in a decade was arrested by the Sebastian County Sheriff's Office and charged with one count of Theft of Property > $25,000 on Monday.

Laurie Denham, city of Bonanza's administrative assistant, allegedly embezzled more than $38,000 from the city. Officials say she made out $38,042 in unauthorized disbursements to herself from January 2018 to May 2022.

The total amount of unaccounted funds uncovered by a Joint Legislature Audit Committee of city records for Bonanza was $178,874 and included $173,404 in undeposited water bill payments, as well as $5,470 in undeposited manual receipts from city funds.

Members of that committee were critical of Mayor Elmer Nelson, who they say hired his daughter--an already convicted embezzler--to keep the records for the Sebastian County community of 600 people.

Similar shortage findings, covering 2012 through 2016, involved unauthorized salary payments by Denham to herself. In 2017 Denham pled guilty to theft by deception and paid restitution in full. After Denham was cited the first time, the City Council unanimously voted to reinstate her into the same position.

In Arkansas, the sentence for a Class B felony is five to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

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