MONTICELLO — The former sheriff of San Juan County has pleaded guilty to misusing public money.

Mike Lacy appeared Monday in 7th District Court in Monticello after being charged with one count of misuse of public money, a third-degree felony. He entered into a plea in abeyance Monday, pleading to a reduced class A misdemeanor charge of misusing public money. He was placed on probation for one year.

San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge released a statement Monday saying that the charge was the result of a months-long investigation by both his department and the FBI that was brought to their attention after Lacy was no longer sheriff.

On Nov. 2, 2010, Lacy, a four-term incumbent who had been sheriff for 16 years, lost in a landslide to Eldredge, a Democrat.

On Nov. 8, $4,134.35 was deposited into a bank account reserved for search and rescue funds, according to Eldredge. The money was generated through a combination of donations and money received from selling county property.

On Nov. 10, Lacy withdrew all the money from the account and closed it, according to the sheriff's office.

As part of his plea agreement, Lacy paid back the money to the county, Eldredge said in his statement.

Lacy, however, told the Deseret News the incident had nothing to do with the election and he made "no personal gain on this whatsoever." He said the dispute was over whether the search and rescue account was a private or public account.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's a private search and rescue account I've had since I was sheriff," he said.

There was some money put into it that was "probably public money," he said. "That's what I paid back."

Lacy said the public funds in the account were more in the neighborhood of $2,800.

"I'm sorry I did what I did," he said. "There was no criminal intention on my part at all, but I wanted to get it resolved."

Eldredge, who wasn't available for questions Monday afternoon, said in a prepared statement that he was "satisfied that a thorough investigation was conducted and justice has been served in the matter."

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