Former Morehouse Parish Sheriff's Deputy Chris Balsamo was sentenced Thursday on charges of felony theft.

He was originally charged with unauthorized use of a moveable after it was discovered nearly $18,000 in cash was missing, money seized during two separate drug cases while he was employed with the MPSO.

Fourth District Attorney Jerry Jones made the decision to seek the felony theft charge against Balsamo.

Leehy issued an arrest warrant for Balsamo in November, following an investigation by Louisiana State Police. He surrendered at the Morehouse Parish Jail on Nov. 30. In the week prior to his arrest, Balsamo repaid $17,884 that was seized but never deposited.

In cases involving cash assets seized during drug investigations, the money is given to the DA’s office and deposited pending the outcome of the criminal charges. If during the court proceedings prosecutors can show the money was received through illegal activities, they can petition the courts to have the money forfeited to the DA’s office and the agency responsible for the arrest, in this case the Sheriff’s Office through the North Louisiana Drug Enforcement Bureau. Balsamo was released after a $2,500 surety bond was posted.

He worked for the MPSO until 2011, when he resigned after an audit discovered $100 missing from a fund used to provide money to make drug buys.

Balsamo plead guilty to the charge before 4th District Court Judge Scott Leehy at the Morehouse Parish Courthouse on Jan. 7. Leehy sentenced him to seven years hard labor, suspended for two years probation and a $1,000 fine.