PRESTONSBURG — A man who disappeared two years ago and was indicted last year on a charge of embezzling over $100,000 from a Floyd County fire department is now being sued by the department’s insurance company, in an attempt to recover the stolen funds.
Former Garrett Fire Department Asst. Chief Terry Wayne Triplett continues to elude authorities, despite a warrant for his arrest that has been active for 14 months. He was indicted Jan. 24, 2013, on a single count of theft by unlawful taking, after an audit of the department revealed more than $123,000 in questionable spending traced back to Triplett.
Now, American Alternative Insurance Corporation hopes to recover that money. The company filed suit Feb. 27 against Triplett, seeking repayment of $130,400.
The financial mismanagement of the fire department came to light in November 2012, when state Auditor Adam Edelen released the results of the agency’s finances. In that report, Edelen noted “over $123,000 in questionable expenditures, including, but not limited to, over $62,000 in questionable cash withdrawals, $16,500 in restaurant charges, $8,250 in checks written to the former assistant chief/treasurer, potentially over $12,950 spent on vendor gift cards, $1,950 in donations and $839 on fireworks.” Many of the questionable expenditures were made with district and department funds, and the report states that “the business purposes of these expenditures are unknown and indicate a gross abuse of funds.”
“The magnitude of abuse at such a small fire department is shocking,” Edelen said. “Taxpayers in Floyd County ought to be outraged that one individual appears to have used fire department resources on everything from televisions to chewing tobacco and pornography.”
The examination was requested by the Garrett Fire District’s board of trustees, after they became concerned about “a suspected misuse of funds.”
Other findings in the report included $4,600 in shopping/gift cards, $9,800 in questionable charges to the department credit card made at restaurants, food stores, hardware stores, super stores, a jewelry store, a local clothing store, and over $1,300 in apparent personal purchases.
Among the additional findings of the audit report were a number of computer devices owned by the district, including a desktop computer, external drive and USB thumb drive, kept at the residence of former Assistant Chief Triplett. Upon examination, the devices were found to contain 890 pornographic videos and 125 graphic images saved to the hard drives of these devices.
The audit also states that very few financial records were located following Triplett’s leaving the department.
“Time and again my office finds lack of proper board oversight is the real culprit when taxpayer dollars are abused,” Edelen said. “I applaud the Garrett fire district board for coming forward with its concerns and implore those who serve on boards – from big school districts to tiny fire districts – to know their responsibilities and take them seriously.”
But after more than two years of searching, authorities have never been able to find Triplett to force him to answer the allegations. In 2012, County Attorney Keith Bartley said Triplett disappeared with Garrett Fire Department funds and equipment, including a car and cellphone. The phone was traced across four states including Tennessee, Virginia, Indiana and Nevada. Bartley said after Kentucky State Police learned of Triplett’s plan through phone and text records, he recommended to the Garrett Volunteer Fire Department that they have the State Auditor’s office do a complete audit.
“The sorry part is, it is tax dollars taken to provide an emergency service,” said Bartley. “And what (Triplett) has done is take away from these services. It’s really endangered lives.”
Triplett had been a 32-year veteran of the Garrett Fire Department, enlisting shortly after the department was formed.