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      Former fire chief sentenced to probation for embezzlement

      Shannon Smith pled guilty to Embezzlement of Public Funds, Obtaining Property Under False Pretenses, Altering, Forging or Counterfeiting Certificate or Title and Fraudulent Check Monday afternoon.

      The crimes happened when Smith served as chief of Howe Springs Fire Department in Florence between 2007 and 2011.

      Judge Michael Nettles sentenced him to ten years suspended to five years probation. The sentence was a recommendation by prosecutors.

      The State Law Enforcement Division arrested Smith in September. Warrants stated he embezzled more than $180,000 of public funds from the fire department for his own use.

      Smith also forged the title of a fire department owned vehicle to show the department sold him the truck valued at more than $26,000.

      Solicitor Ed Clements says Smith opened a checking account on behalf of fire department that no one else knew about.

      Smith was fired from department when an audit found thousands of dollars was missing from fire department last June.

      He is required to pay back more than $204,000 in restitution. If he fails to pay back the money within five years, his probation will be revoked and he'll go to prison for ten years.

      Smith's attorney says Smith is looking at selling some assets to help with his restitution. He says Smith wants an opportunity for redemption.

      Smith told the court he let a lot of people down and he's ready to make it right.