Former university employee indicted on charges for embezzling fire department funds

The former cashier turned himself into authorities.

Coleman Martinson

A former Washington and Lee University employee was indicted on charges alleging that he and another man embezzled funds from the Natural Bridge fire department.

Justin K. Garrett, 27, of Natural Bridge Station, was the chief of the fire department. He was indicted on two counts of embezzlement and two additional counts of conspiracy to embezzle between May and June of 2018, according to court documents. 

The fire department’s treasurer, Robert D. Newman, 54, was also charged with 13 counts of embezzlement and two counts of conspiracy to embezzle between May 2018 and May 2019, according to court documents.

K.C. Schaefer, director of the university store, confirmed that Garrett was a part-time employee but said that Garrett worked in the store for less than a month. He declined to comment further. According to the university’s website, Garrett worked as a cashier and weekend supervisor.

Court documents also revealed that Garrett’s primary employer was Washington and Lee University.

Garrett turned himself in to authorities on Sept. 5. Schaefer said he was let go on Sept. 11. The university declined to comment, citing university policies and procedures.

Garrett is no longer a part of the Natural Bridge Station Fire Department, which is staffed by volunteers, said Nathan Ramsey, chief of Rockbridge County’s department of fire and rescue.

Ramsey said an audit earlier this year revealed irregularities. The Rockbridge County sheriff’s office launched an investigation and discovered missing funds.

Multiple attempts to reach Garrett over the phone were unsuccessful.

The two men are scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 21.