Two men charged in alleged theft of county gasoline

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has arrested two former volunteer firefighters in Grady County claiming they used government gasoline cards for personal vehicles.
Marcus Ashley Lee, 39, is charged with nine counts of theft by taking, and Quardell Barez Johnson, 34, is charged with five counts of theft by taking. All charges are felonies because the men allegedly stole from the Grady County government.
The Grady County Board of Commissioners sought investigative assistance from the GBI in February, and between the dates of March 1 and March 29, the agency conducted surveillance and researched records, according to Steve Turner, GBI special agent in charge.
Grady County Commissioner Charles Norton, who became suspicious about the gas bills and urged the board of commissioners to call in the GBI, said each of the 25 tankers and fire engines belonging to the county has a gas card and each fire station has a specific PIN number to use when purchasing gas using the card.
Norton said he was unsure of how and why former county personnel still had cards, stating, “That’s a good question. The internal controls are a little weak and there will have to be some changes made.”
The arrests, made Tuesday, April 2, came as a surprise to Wayne Hadden, coordinator of Grady County Volunteer Fire Departments.
“I don’t know a word to accurately describe my feelings; maybe devastated. It’s just such a shocker. It’s so sad these kinds of things happen,” Hadden said.
Hadden said Lee had left the volunteer fire department approximately nine years ago when he took a job in another county. Johnson had not worked as a volunteer in about four years, he said.
Hadden said although it is the responsibility of each station chief to monitor such cards, he said there is no way for them to keep up with the amount of gasoline used.
“We get a monthly report of the budget dollar wise, but it’s not broken out with line items of diesel or gas,” Hadden explained. He said it’s just a total dollar figure.
Hadden also said that of the 25 vehicles used by the volunteer fire department, about 95 percent now run on diesel fuel instead of gasoline.
“With what we do, you have to trust people and trust they use the right judgment and good judgment, and sometimes that doesn’t seem to be the case. That certainly saddens all of us,” Hadden said.
Both Lee and Johnson were released from the Grady Detention Center on April 3, Lee on a $9,000 bond and Johnson on a $5,000 bond.

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