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Fonda Hawthorne, a former Arkansas state representative, pleaded guilty this week to a theft of property charge for making several thousand dollars in unauthorized purchases on the Little River Chamber of Commerce debit card, an official said.

Ninth Judicial Circuit Judge Charles Yeargan will sentence Hawthorne May 21. A hearing is scheduled at 9 a.m. that day for Hawthorne to explain why she took $12,097 in chamber funds, said Bryan Chesshir, Ninth Judicial District prosecuting attorney.

At the time of the incident, Hawthorne was the executive director of the Little River Chamber of Commerce in Ashdown, Ark. Hawthorne was later terminated from the position and an investigation was opened.

The records indicated the debit card was used at liquor and tobacco stores. The debit card was issued to Hawthorne on Nov. 29, 2013 and reissued Oct. 15, 2016.

Danny Young, president of the Little River Chamber of Commerce, and chamber member Susie Brown reported to the Ashdown police they believed that Hawthorne had been embezzling money.

In notes taken from a meeting between Hawthorne and the Chamber of Commerce board, Hawthorne apologized for the missing money and wanted to keep her job so she could pay the money back, according to the arrest affidavit.

Charges were filed by Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Al Smith in the Little River County Circuit Court on March 13, 2018.

The charge is a Class C felony that carries a potential sentence of 3 to 10 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Hawthorne is being represented by Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana.

Hawthorne represented Arkansas' Fourth House District from 2013 to 2015, according to records.

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