A former West Baton Rouge Parish Chamber of Commerce employee is accused of siphoning thousands of dollars of the organization's money, months after she resigned following a drug-smuggling arrest on the U.S.-Mexico border, authorities said.
Marie Anais Brand, 34, of Grosse Tete was charged with theft and fraud this week after investigators with the West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office say she forged 38 checks and deposited the money into her bank accounts.
The alleged forgeries totaled more than $29,000 and happened between June 2019 and last October, detectives wrote in an affidavit filed Monday.
Brand served on a leadership role as the chamber of commerce's events coordinator where she had access to the chamber’s finances for nearly two years.
She resigned in October after she was arrested at the Mexico-Texas border on drug smuggling charges. Authorities in Texas said they found more than 1,564 pills of the prescription painkiller Tramadol in bottles and inside the lining of her purse.
Brand told officers she bought the pills in Mexico for her hip and wanted to bring enough back to last her a year.
Online court records in Hidalgo County, Texas don’t show any charges filed against Brand.
Weeks after her arrest, chamber leaders met with law enforcement after noticing inconsistencies in their finances.
In one case, they noted Brand wrote check out to herself and said it was to pay an internet bill which is paid through a direct deposit, according to arrest records. Another instance included checks Brand wrote for events that were canceled due to the pandemic
Investigators wrote in an affidavit that Brand also forged board members' signatures to conceal those actions by making it appear the payments were authorized.
The Chamber of Commerce said that it's has hired an accounting firm and plans hire an auditing firm to check for other financial discrepancies. They said in a statement Friday they've also implemented internal policies to "prevent this from happening again."
Brand was free after posting a $70,000 bond this week. She did not immediately return messages Friday seeking comment.