Crime & Courts

Former Lincoln Co assistant fire chief arrested on embezzlement charges

By WBTV Web Staff

William Vernon Fortenberry (Lincoln County Jail)
William Vernon Fortenberry (Lincoln County Jail)

LINCOLN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The former assistant fire chief for the Lincolnton Fire Department was arrested on embezzlement charges Monday.

William Vernon Fortenberry, 50, is charged with three counts of embezzlement, according to the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office website.

Fortenberry resigned from his position in September of 2015 after being accused of embezzling money, leading to an investigation by state investigators.

According to the SBI, investigators were contacted in September by the District Attorney's office and the Lincolnton Police Department to looked into the "possibility of financial crimes."

Investigators have not confirmed that Monday's arrest is connected to the original embezzlement accusations.

The Lincoln County District Attorney, Mike Miller, confirmed to WBTV that his office called the SBI.

The investigation began on September 11, according to Dion Burleson, the Public Information Officer for the Lincoln County Chapter of the North Carolina Firefighters Burned Children's Fund.

"On September 11, 2015, the board of officers for the Lincoln County chapter of the North Carolina Firefighters’ Burned Children Fund became suspicious of possible fraudulent activities involving the group’s finances," Burleson wrote in a statement. "The president of the Lincoln County chapter, Casey Noles, immediately contacted local law enforcement and started the investigative process into this matter."

Burleson said the group would not get into specifics on the incident due to the investigation being in its "infancy."

City officials told WBTV in September they were aware of the allegations surrounding Fortenberry, and that "a criminal as well as administrative investigation" were being conducted at that time.

"We did receive allegations in regards to this incident and felt it better to allow a thorough investigation be conducted by the SBI since this is an employee of the city," Lincolnton Police Chief Rodney Jordan said in early October.

According to the Lincolnton Fire Department's Facebook page, Fortenberry was promoted from Captain to Assistant Chief in June. Fortenberry had been with the the department for 26 years, according to the post.

Fortenberry is being held in the Lincoln County Jail under a $36,000 bond.

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