HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — An Alabama man has been indicted in federal court on charges he stole funds from a memorial fund set up for a Huntsville police officer killed in the line of duty last year.
Devonte Lemond Hammonds, 27, of Birmingham, is charged with one count of access device fraud and three counts of wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama. If convicted on the first charge, Hammonds faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Wire fraud affecting a financial institution carries a 30-year prison term, per count, and a fine up to $250,000.
“My heart hurts for the family, and also the citizens that contributed to the donation account,” Huntsville police Lt. Tony McElyea told WHNT in Huntsville in February. “Obviously they were using their hard-earned money to donate and lift the spirits and help any way they can for the Clardy family.”
The case against Hammonds began not long after the Dec. 6 shooting death of Huntsville police STAC Agent Billy Fred Clardy III, a 48-year-old member of the North Alabama Drug Task Force under the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. Clardy was part of a narcotics investigation in which a drug buy was set up involving a known dealer, identified as LaJeromeny Latez Brown, 42, of Huntsville.
As part of the sting, Brown was supposed to drop off a large quantity of drugs at a home on Levert Street, Huntsville police officials said.
“Upon arrival at the residence, STAC Agent Clardy was immediately shot by the offender on the porch,” officials said in a statement. “There was a short foot pursuit with other officers who were on a perimeter, when the offender was eventually captured. STAC Agent Clardy died as a result of gunshot wounds he suffered outside the scope of his bulletproof vest.”
Brown has been charged with capital murder in Clardy’s killing.
In the aftermath of Clardy’s death, a memorial fund was established at Redstone Federal Credit Union to raise money for Clardy’s family. It wasn’t long before Hammonds devised a scheme to steal funds from the account, federal prosecutors allege.
A federal indictment against Hammonds states that throughout 2019, he had gone onto the U.S. Postal Service’s website and had multiple strangers’ mailing addresses rerouted to his own apartment in Birmingham. He then used the victims’ identities to make purchases, make payments and open accounts with various financial institutions.
Following Clardy’s death, Hammonds used someone else’s identity to make electronic withdrawals from the Billy Clardy Memorial Fund “without (the victim’s) knowledge or consent, and without authorization,” the document states.
Between Dec. 17 and Dec. 27, Hammonds is accused of making three withdrawals from the account, which totaled $1,760.63.
“Redstone Federal Credit Union was made aware of three unauthorized electronic withdrawals from this account,” Jonathan Kirby, Redstone’s vice president of security and investigations, said in a statement. “We reimbursed the account and launched our own investigation as is customary in these incidences. We continue to work with law enforcement on this matter.”
Read the federal indictment against Devonte Hammond below.
Just two weeks before the first withdrawal from the dead officer’s memorial account, Hammonds had been booked into the Madison County Jail on charges of driving with a suspended license and two counts of using a false identity to obstruct justice, jail records show. He was released on bail the following day.
Hammonds was again arrested in May on warrants out of Jefferson County for failure to appear on felony charges. Jail records show he was released on bond last month.
Clardy’s line-of-duty death made national headlines as the second in his immediate family to occur within the ranks of the Huntsville police force. His father, Officer Billy Fred Clardy Jr., 26, was killed May 3, 1978, in a single-vehicle crash on U.S. 72 while en route to meet with a fellow officer.
“His vehicle left the roadway and struck a rock wall, causing him to suffer fatal injuries,” according to the elder Clardy’s memorial on the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Billy Clardy III was about 7 years old when his father was killed. Billy Clardy Jr. had been an officer for three years at the time of his death.
Clardy III had served the department for 14 years.
“First and foremost, (Clardy III) was a beloved son, brother, husband, father and grandfather,” a statement from the department said. “He was a U.S. Army veteran. (He was) also an exceptional police officer with many career accomplishments.”
Billy Clardy III’s son, Brandon Clardy, has decided to follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps. In an emotional Facebook post the day after his father was slain, Brandon Clardy announced that he had taken a position as a police officer with the Albertville Police Department.
Albertville is about 50 miles southeast of Huntsville in Marshall County.
“I never knew Thursday night would be the last time I spoke to you, Dad,” Brandon Clardy wrote. “It’s as if God set up that phone call. You were the first person I told I accepted the police officer job in Albertville.
“You gave me great words of wisdom that I will forever carry with me day in and day out. We don’t always understand why God takes the ones who are just trying to fight the good fight. I love you, Dad, and will forever make you proud.
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