It was only a matter of time until a paper trail of written checks and deposits caught up with Earl Sword, his sister Samantha Kimich and their mother, Wanda Sword. The trio is accused of collectively embezzling nearly $40,000 over the last two years.
Earl Sword, the former Fire chief confessed to spending $8,000 on various repairs to his 1997 BMW that now sits behind the Grimes County Sheriff's Office.
"A new motor was replaced, air conditioning, new tires and a front end was bought with funds from the volunteer fire department," said Captain Blake Jarvis of the Grimes County Sheriff's Office.
On top of that, Earl Sword reportedly replaced the roof of his home with reimbursement checks given to the Iola Fire department for service calls.
"The department receives money each time they respond to an emergency call; last year the Iola VFD received around $67,000. They also receive money from the Emergency Services District; I believe they received somewhere around $47,000 and that's not even counting all of the money that was donated and raised from fundraisers," explained Jarvis.
The Department spent $13,000 last year at Sam's Club -- purchases that auditors say don't add up. Some of those purchases include gift cards and an above ground pool allegedly purchased by Wanda Sword as a gift to her daughter Samantha. With two confessions on the table from Samantha Kimich and her brother Earl Sword, between 2010 and 2011 the two embezzled more than $29,400.
Although vehemently denying her involvement, investigators believe Wanda Sword, the department accountant, was responsible for writing the checks, including more than $10,000 reportedly written and cashed for herself.
"When you have three members of the family who are in charge of the finances…that's just foolish,” said Grimes County District Attorney, Tuck McLain. “You don't put the same person in charge of writing the checks that also balances the check book.”
"This is just what we know right now from the checks that were written," explained Jarvis. "We had to go in and call each of those vendors and ask them to send us receipts. We are still trying to find out if more money was taken and additionally find out if anyone else was involved."
According to reports, two days before the audit, Grimes County Sheriff's received a call about a burglary at the Iola Volunteer Fire Department. No equipment was taken – instead, the alleged thieves took off with all of the department’s financial records and receipts from the last two years. While all three suspects have bonded out of jail -- the investigation is just getting started.
Tuesday night, an emergency meeting of the Iola Fire Department was held at the fire station, where they elected new officers. Many are wondering why Michael Scott Kimich was chosen as the assistant fire chief -- in 2009 he was convicted for theft after stealing at least eight head of cattle between July 2008 and December 2008.
“If somebody is dealing with or has power or control over your finances, you certainly do not put a convicted thief to assume that position,” said McLain.