A former lieutenant for the Richmond County Fire Department pleaded guilty Thursday to theft for pocketing fire inspection fees.
Lenston Harris, 58, entered his plea in Richmond County Superior Court. Judge J. David Roper sentenced Harris to six years, with the first 18 months to be served in jail. Harris will be on probation after his release.
In February 2012, Harris resigned and confessed when he was confronted with his crime, Assistant District Attorney Robert Homlar said.
Harris had been assigned to inspect businesses for fire safety before business licenses could be issued. The $75 fee was not supposed to be in cash, Homlar said.
Harris not only accepted cash payments but also pocketed the fees paid by two dozen businesses, Homlar said.
Defense attorney Clay Ward told the judge that Harris has the $3,150 to make full restitution. In mitigation, Ward said, Harris has been grief-stricken by the loss of two sons – one of whom was slain in a case that remains unsolved. Harris was having financial troubles and remains in danger of losing his home, his attorney said.
The judge asked Harris what he had done.
“I just kept the money,” Harris said.
Harris brought shame on himself in addition to betraying the trust of the fire department and the taxpayers, Roper said.
Harris must report to jail Tuesday.