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Further details emerge on Madden investigation

The former Franklin County administrator who pled guilty to felony ethics charges last month logged into her county account remotely after she resigned from her position last year, the Franklin Free Press has learned.

Court documents including the affidavit for search warrants and the search warrant signed by Franklin County District Judge Paula McDowell indicate Crista Madden logged into her Franklin County account via a computer in the Franklin County Commission Office after her resignation date of August 31, 2017.

The extent of what, if any, actions Madden took while remotely logging into the county computer system has not been indicated by law enforcement.

Madden pled guilty March 19 to two felony charges after she stole more than $753,000 of taxpayer monies over a 10-year period. The next step in Madden's case will be a sentencing hearing that has not yet been set. She faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years on each count and a fine of up to $30,000. She will be ordered to reimburse $753,889.21 to the Franklin County Commission general fund. Retired Colbert County Circuit Judge Pride Tompkins is handling the case after Franklin County Circuit Judge Terry Dempsey recused himself.

The search warrant and the supporting affidavit were signed March 1, 2018. The affidavit, filed by Alabama Attorney General's Office special agent Sterling J. Frith, indicates that agents were contacted by the Alabama Department of Public Examiners regarding potential fraudulent activity in Franklin County relating to Madden. The investigation began February 17, 2018.

The paperwork presented to law enforcement showed a pattern of false purchase orders generated by Madden and checks that had been altered so she could deposit them directly into her checking account.

Subpoenas were submitted to “multiple financial institutions that were associated with Madden” according to Frith's affidavit. The results of those documents showed $233,465.52 in purchase orders and fraudulent checks that were deposited into one of Madden's personal checking accounts.

Two search warrants were signed by McDowell that day. The first allowed for the seizure from the Franklin County Commission office of: (1) Binders containing financial records for Franklin County from 2007-2017, and (2) the laptop computer used by Madden during her employment with Franklin County.

That search warrant was served upon Franklin County Probate Judge Barry Moore on March 1, 2018. In a statement given to the Franklin Free Press last month, Moore indicated he was the one who first reported the alleged fraudulent activity to the state auditors.

36 financial binders, one stack of financial documents and one Dell laptop computer and external hard drive computer were seized pursuant to the warrant.

A second affidavit and search warrant was executed the same day on Madden's residence. Seized in the execution of this search warrant were bank statements in the name of one of Madden's family members, financial paperwork, a Dell laptop computer, tax records, documents from the Alabama Ethics Commission, bank statements, personal papers, several cell phones, a filing cabinet with financial documents, a Lenovo tablet and a Dell desktop computer.

Madden was placed on administrative leave from her county administrator position in Chilton County four days later, on March 5, after the Chilton County Commission met at an emergency meeting.

Madden pled guilty to intentionally violating the Alabama Ethics Law, including a count of Use of Official Position for Personal Gain and Use of Equipment for Personal Gain.

The plea agreement included language that the State would “ask the Court to take into consideration at sentencing the cooperation of the Defendant.”

Madden remains free on $10,000 bond pending sentencing.

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