Plea given

Paula Michele Tanner was arraigned during a hearing in the 354th District Court Monday morning on an indictment of theft of property of between $2,500 and $30,000.

One of two former officials of the Commerce E-Corps has pleaded not guilty to a charge alleging the husband and wife stole thousands of dollars from the agency.

Paula Michele Tanner was arraigned during a hearing in the 354th District Court Monday morning on an indictment of theft of property of between $2,500 and $30,000. Judge Keli Aiken accepted the plea and scheduled a hearing to accept discovery evidence in the case for Nov. 14.

Chad Tanner is scheduled to be arraigned in the court today.

Investigators have indicated charges filed against the Tanners were the result of multiple complaints of money missing from the Commerce Emergency Corps.

The indictments were issued Aug.23 from the Hunt County grand jury and allege Chad Lee Tanner, 50, and his wife Paula Michele Tanner, 49, unlawfully appropriated $4,204.54 in U.S. currency from the Commerce Emergency Corps on or about Jan. 1, 2018.

The Hunt County Office of Homeland Security conducted the investigation, which it claimed stemmed from several complaints from different persons and entities that there seemed to be a misuse of money belonging to the Commerce E-Corps.

David Alexander, Hunt County Homeland Security investigator, said he interviewed numerous persons inside and outside the organization as well as reviewing a great amount of financial reports, expenditures, bank statements and other documents. 

Chad Tanner had been elected the Chief of Commerce E-Corps in December, 2017 and Paula Tanner, Secretary/Treasurer at the same time and they remained in their positions until the end of August, 2018. 

No other individuals were implicated in the investigation. The charge is a third degree felony, punishable upon conviction by a maximum sentence of from two to 20 years in prison and an optional fine of up to $10,000.

The Hunt County Homeland Security Department was also the agency involved with a similar investigation in late 2018, in which former Merit Volunteer Fire Department Chief Wilfred Lewis Barber ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a combination of probation and jail time, along with restitution.

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