Former town manager, fire chief in Landis pleads guilty to $500,000 embezzlement from town

The charges stem from a 2019 audit.
Douglas Reed Linn, 63, will spend at least 44 months in prison.
Douglas Reed Linn, 63, will spend at least 44 months in prison.(WBTV File)
Published: Nov. 3, 2022 at 12:05 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Douglas Reed Linn, 63, the former fire chief and town manager for the Town of Landis in Rowan County entered a guilty plea to embezzlement charges on Thursday in Rowan County Superior Court.

Linn pleaded guilty to six counts of embezzlement by a local charitable officer/employee and was sentenced to serve between 44 and 65 months in prison. He was also ordered to pay the Town of Landis $1,423,129.14 in restitution.

The judge consolidated the six charges into one charge prior to sentencing.

[PREVIOUS COVERAGE: SBI investigation complete, charges being brought against former Landis town officials]

According to prosecutor Whitney Schaffer of the Conference of District Attorneys, as an administrator with the town between 2010 and 2019, Linn had access to the third party payroll system. He created spreadsheets and entered information that would determine how much money he would be paid.

Schaffer said Linn paid himself $506,373 more than he was entitled to in any of the positions in which he served.

Schaffer also said that Linn used the town garage for repairs and upgrades to his personal vehicles, used the town credit card to pay for gas for personal vehicles, purchased liquor, trips, lodging, and entertainment with the town credit card. Linn also used the card to pay for trips to Asheville and Myrtle Beach.

Linn was able to shield the theft by concealing the money in the town budget under the categories of lighting, electricity, and water.

The problems were discovered by an audit in 2019. Former town officials Ginger Gibson and Andrew Morgan also face embezzlement and conspiracy charges.

No court date has been set yet for Gibson and Morgan.

Salisbury attorney James Davis represented Linn in court. Davis said that Linn “believed that he didn’t do anything wrong.” He pointed out that Linn had held six different positions with the town during the time.

According to Davis, multiple budgets were approved by the Landis Board of Alderman during that time and no questions were raised about missing money.

Davis described Linn as a “fine citizen with no record.” He pointed out that since the investigation began in 2019, Linn has lost his marriage, his home, “virtually everything.” He said the investigation has had a devastating effect on Linn and that Linn is now “virtually indigent.”

“He has lost what we as people care most about and that’s his good name,” Davis told the judge.

Linn’s pension from the town has been stripped and the money will go to the state. The Town of Landis will be able to recover those funds, court officials said.

Linn, wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and red tie, was led away to jail immediately following the court session.

“I just want to say that it’s a credit to him for what he…how he’s lived his life before, for what occurred then and what he did today,” Davis said. “Despite what occurred today, he’s live a life of good character and these events, there are two sides to everything and he conducted himself with manners and propriety and respect not only for the court but for the process.”

This is a developing story. Check back with WBTV for the latest updates, or check out our free streaming platforms through the WBTV News app.