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Top Iola Fire Officials Charged With Embezzlement

Three members of the Iola Volunteer Fire Department, including the now-former fire chief, have been arrested  after a January review by the Grimes County Auditor’s Office revealed numerous discrepancies.

Deputies with the Grimes County Sheriff’s Office say auditors discovered some of the department’s funds were used to purchase personal items. Specifics were not immediately disclosed.

In the days that followed the internal audit, sheriff’s investigators along with the Texas Rangers began to look into the alleged misappropriation of funds. During the investigation, authorities say they discovered three members of the Iola Volunteer Fire Department — Chief Earl Sword, along with the department’s accountant, Wanda Sword (who is also the chief’s mother), and the department’s secretary, Samantha Kimich (who is also the sister of the the former fire chief) — had used the money for personal gain.

Sword has resigned as chief as a result. He had been in the position for about four years.

Arrests records indicate that collectively, the trio is accused of embezzling nearly $40,000 of department money. County officials say the investigation goes back at least two years.

Grimes County Sheriff Don Sowell says the Swords and Kimich were due to report to the sheriff’s office Tuesday evening, each to be charged with Theft by a Public Servant, a second degree felony.

Sowell says the investigation remains open and additional arrests could still be made, and that all three have confessed to the embezzlement.

Tuesday night, an emergency meeting of the Iola Fire Department is being held at the fire station. It’s expected new officers will be elected at this time.

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