New Hampshire sheriff arrested for allegedly using $19,000 in county money to pay for personal trips, lying to grand jury

Crime

Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave denies all wrongdoing and is claiming political persecution.

Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave was arrested Thursday on theft and perjury charges. New Hampshire Department of Justice

New Hampshire authorities arrested Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave on Thursday for his alleged misuse of county money on personal trips and numerous lies to a grand jury that investigated his alleged misconduct.

Brave, who was first elected in 2020 and is believed to be the state’s first Black sheriff, denies any wrongdoing and said he will fight the charges. On Thursday, he told local news outlets he believes the charges are political persecution fueled by Strafford County’s commissioners.

“The decision to charge an elected constitutional officer was not made lightly,” New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said in a press release Thursday. “However, no person is above the law, and the evidence in this case required action.”

Authorities charged the sheriff with one count of theft by deception, two counts of falsifying physical evidence, and five counts of perjury.

The attorney general’s office said Thursday evening that, to their knowledge, Brave is still serving as Strafford County Sheriff.

Mark Brave smiles as he poses outside the Strafford County Courthouse in Dover, New Hampshire, in 2020. – Charles Krupa/AP Photo

The accusations against Sheriff Brave

Brave allegedly spent around $19,000 on personal expenses, including airfare, hotel stays, and dinners during trips to Boston, Florida, and other destinations, the Attorney General’s office said in the release. Many of the trips were, allegedly, visits or excursions with multiple romantic partners.

The sheriff allegedly used fraudulent expense reports and altered receipts to be reimbursed for the trips, the release said. The false justifications ranged from attending conferences he never went to, to paying back organizations that didn’t exist.

Brave then allegedly perjured himself repeatedly during his testimony to a Stafford County Grand Jury that was investigating his alleged misconduct, the release said.

One perjury charge was related to the sheriff’s claim that a female employee he’d traveled to Florida with had stayed with family, the release said. The employee originally agreed with his testimony, but later admitted that she’d stayed in his hotel room with him.

Another perjury charge stemmed from Brave’s claim that he’d travelled to Maryland to meet with U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas, but that Pappas had cancelled the meeting and given him a flag from the U.S. Capitol as an apology gift, the release said. Records from Pappas’ office did not support any part of Brave’s story, and investigators discovered that he’d allegedly made the trip to meet with a romantic partner who lived in the area.

Two of the perjury charges concerned a Boston hotel stay and cruise that the sheriff claimed was for himself and a male deputy to attend a charity event, the release said. Investigators later discovered that the cruise and hotel stay had allegedly been a birthday present for another of the sheriff’s romantic partners.

Sheriff Brave claims political persecution

The sheriff told Foster’s Daily Democrat he believes the charges against him are based on “trumped-up allegations by the county commissioners” who “don’t like the way he runs his office.”

“I will fight this all the way. If I had done anything wrong, I’d own it. But I, 100%, did nothing wrong,” he reportedly said.

Brave specifically denied any kind of romantic relationship with the female employee mentioned in the Florida trip perjury allegations, the Daily Democrat reported.

“As for the trips, it was strictly business, and my budget includes $18,000 for travel expenses. I misspent nothing. We send deputies out all the time to visit other departments, to gain fresh ideas…That is what this was,” he told the newspaper.

Because the sheriff is an elected official, the county commissioners cannot have him removed from office. During the investigation, which began earlier this summer, he declined a request to go on paid leave, the Daily Democrat reported.

“I will not step down until I am forced to, until charges against me make it necessary,” he said.

A Democrat who openly supported the Black Lives Matter movement, Brave ran on a platform of police reform and transparency in 2020. He grew up in Massachusetts and worked in the sheriff’s office before he was elected.

What’s next

Brave turned himself in to police Thursday, the Daily Democrat reported. He has been released on a personal recognizance bond pending his arraignment, the release said.

The sheriff told the Daily Democrat his arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 28 in Strafford County Superior Court in Dover. Strafford County judges are recusing themselves from the case and a Rockingham County judge will preside, the newspaper reported.

Brave is facing 31 to 64 years in prison and fines up to $32,000 if convicted on all counts.

Authorities are still investigating the sheriff. Anyone with information relevant to the investigation is asked to contact Allison Vachon at (603) 271-0102 or [email protected].

Reporting by the Associated Press was used in this article.

Originally posted 2023-08-18 02:07:14.


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