KINGMAN — An assurance of a misdemeanor conviction is the main sticking point in plea negotiations involving a firefighter being prosecuted for embezzling more than $24,000 from a Dolan Springs-based fire district.

Phillip Picard, 32, was charged with fraud, forgery and theft following an investigation that determined he was paid by claiming hours that he did not work for the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District.

Deputy Mohave County Attorney David Wayt told Mohave County Superior Court Judge Lee Jantzen during a Wednesday settlement conference that witnesses, accounting paperwork and a recorded telephone conversation give the state a strong case.

Wayt said he offered a plea agreement involving guaranteed supervised probation, court discretion over possible jail time and a felony conviction.

Defense attorney Virginia Crews said Wayt rejected her counter offer stipulating a misdemeanor conviction.

Picard already has fully reimbursed the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District, hoping for leniency in resolution of his criminal case. Jantzen encouraged attorneys to continue negotiating and he suggested a plea structure that would leave the offense as undesignated.

Undesignated offense guilty pleas sometimes automatically revert to a misdemeanor conviction when a defendant completes probation. And sometimes they leave the designation decision up to the judge when probation is completed.

Picard has moved out of state and Crews said he hopes to resolve his case without returning to Mohave County.

Jantzen noted that he is merely conducting an independent settlement conference on behalf of Judge Rick Lambert and that it is not clear if Lambert would accept an undesignated offense plea agreement in Picard’s case. Wayt expressed optimism that he and Crews can work through the issue and present an acceptable plea proposal to Lambert.

A status hearing before Lambert is scheduled Aug. 17.

(1) comment

ERB

Dear Mr. Wayt,

Regarding the Phillip Picard payroll embezzlement of $24,000+ from the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District, I, along with many other Taxpayers in the District are watching, and encourage you to stand on the felony charge. To reduce this long term fraud to a misdemeanor flies in the face of justice. If someone steals cars valued at $24,000 and keeps them in their garage for a year and a half or so, and only returns them after somebody notices and threatens to turn them in, does that negate the severity of their offense? Are they let go with a misdemeanor charge because they "returned" them and apologized?

The time frame for this embezzlement indicates Picard began submitting the falsified time sheets soon after Chief DeMaio hired him. WHO ever begins a new job and immediately feels comfortable defrauding their employer??!! How many times has he done this before and gotten away with it? And how much longer might it have gone on, had Meadview residents not started questioning the days of coverage DeMaio was reporting monthly? Oh.. and interestingly, Picard, DeMaio, and Karen Jackson (the AA in charge of payroll) were all friends and/or former fellow employees from Golden Valley Fire District. Still haven't figured out what Board Chair Cass's involvement was, or why she works so hard to cover it up.

There was never a proper investigation into this embezzlement; there are obviously other persons likely complicit; and we have no idea how many more employees may have been submitting falsified time sheets. If you let Picard off easy, any others will be encouraged to continue their embezzlement of our Fire District as well as other employers they may have.

An auditor once told me that payroll is the easiest place for employers to lose $$ to fraud and that there need to be multiple layers of protection in that area. Two of the persons directly responsible during the Picard embezzlement, (one still responsible for LMRFD payroll and one still on the Board running interference for her), have recently succeeded in getting rid of ALL the protections that were put in place to prevent it ever happening again!

Please, you MUST prosecute this case to the fullest extent possible or we have no hope of weeding out the remainder of the corruption in our Board and Management while sending a strong message to others out there thinking they can get away with the same.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

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