Former East Mountain Fire Chief pleads guilty to embezzling from department

Crime & Public Safety

UPSHUR COUNTY, Texas (KETK) – Former East Mountain Fire Chief James Burks pled guilty to the offense of Misapplication of Fiduciary Property on January 13, according to the Criminal District Attorney.

In May of 2019, members of the fire department started to notice discrepancies in the bank statements they received. When asked about supporting documents regarding unknown purchases, Burks was unable to provide answers.

Working with Upshur County Sheriff’s Department, Investigator Tim Hall identified approximately $45,000 in funds that had been used by Burks.

Purchases included trips to gamble, loans using fire department equipment as collateral, food and gas, cash withdrawals, and personal purchases such as spa treatments, according to court records.

When confronted with the documentation, Burks confessed to his actions.

The punishment range for a third-degree felony is two to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $100,000. In addition, the court can order Burks to repay the amount stolen from the fire department.

A sentencing date has not been set but according to Criminal District Attorney Billy W. Byrd, the hearing will take place imminently.

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