A small Alabama town is struggling to understand how its 91-year-old mayor could have stolen $201,000 in taxpayer funds over the past three years without being caught until this week.
Mary Ella Hixon pleaded guilty Thursday to stealing from River Falls, where she was mayor for 37 years. She made payments, disguised as legitimate town expenses, to friends, relatives and co-workers.
Judge Ashley McKathan sentenced Hixon to 10 years in prison but reduced her sentence to five years on probation because of her age. Hixon agreed to resign as mayor, pay back the stolen money and testify against accomplices.
She had been mayor for so long that the Town Council appeared to have stopped paying attention to her spending, District Attorney Walt Merrell said.