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Former Cumming police sergeant focus of FBI probe
city

CUMMING — The FBI is reportedly investigating a former Cumming police sergeant on allegations of extortion.  

In a statement, Cumming Police Chief Casey Tatum confirmed that Nathan VanBuren, who resigned Sept. 9 in lieu of termination, was the subject of a federal probe.

“The Cumming Police Department became aware of alleged misconduct by Sgt. VanBuren after a citizen stepped forward with concerns earlier this month,” Tatum said. “After those complaints were received by our agency, we immediately informed the FBI, who in turn immediately stepped in and began their investigation.”

Tatum declined to comment further on the matter, saying only the department would “continue to provide full cooperation to the FBI as they continue their investigation.”

A spokesman for the FBI’s office in Atlanta said he could not talk about the case.

Attempts to reach VanBuren for comment were not immediately successful.

Though Tatum’s statement did not reference a specific crime, a memorandum he sent VanBuren — which the Forsyth County News obtained from the city in response to an open records request — offers some insight.

On Sept. 3, VanBuren was notified by Tatum that the department had received an “allegation of misconduct regarding you extorting money.”

The letter goes on to note that “since the allegation is potentially criminal, a formal investigation must be conducted by an outside agency.” VanBuren was immediately placed on administrative leave with pay.

The following day, Sept. 4, he received another letter informing him that the city would be terminating his employment in five days, on Sept. 9.

The letter cited three policy manual violations discovered during the criminal investigation: duty regarding conduct; conduct unbecoming; and buying/selling/receiving items.

The last violation, which would appear to be the most serious, is described as “buying, receiving or selling anything of value from or to any complainant, suspect, witness, defendant, prisoner, or other person involved in any case which has come to the attention of, or which arose out of, department employment.”

The letter also listed violations of city personnel policies and procedures, including: misconduct; conduct reflecting discredit on the city or the employee’s department; acceptance of money or other valuable consideration given with the intent of influencing the employee; and improper use of official position for personal profit or advantage.

A check of VanBuren’s personnel file, which the city also provided in response to the open records request, shows little sign of serious trouble leading up to the investigation.

According to Cumming records, VanBuren joined the city police force in August 2008 and was promoted to sergeant in August 2013.

He came to Cumming from Emerson, a small town in southern Bartow County, where he had worked as a police officer for more than two years. He had previously served in the U.S. Army Reserves.

In October 2008, a Cumming police car driven by VanBuren was involved in a wreck that was determined to be his fault for failure to yield. He was responding to an emergency at the time.

In December 2012, VanBuren received a memorandum for failure to follow chain of command involving a personnel matter.

In March 2014, he served a seven-hour suspension without pay for failure to complete mandatory training sessions.

And on June 6, 2014, VanBuren was among the public safety personnel who responded to the old county courthouse when a heavily armed gunman unsuccessfully attempted to storm it.

Per department policy, he was placed on leave following the shooting and was cleared to return to duty 10 days later.