A 62-year-old woman who has served for 17 years as the Clerk of the Superior Court in Dawson County was charged by federal authorities yesterday with theft, tax evasion and bankruptcy fraud for allegedly taking approximately $134,000 from her job. She also faces state charges of theft by taking, Georgia’s term for embezzlement.
Prosecutors allege that the woman and her husband were in serious financial trouble, which provided a motive for the theft. The couple filed for bankruptcy in 2007, after some of the alleged embezzlement occurred, and the bankruptcy fraud charge arose from not listing the supposedly stolen money as assets in the bankruptcy filing. Similarly, the tax evasion charges relate to not listing the money on tax returns filed with the IRS and the Georgia Department of Revenue.
Dawson County DA, U.S. Attorney accuse woman of taking larger fees than she was entitled to for issuing passports
Prosecutors say the charges arose after another court employee was accused of embezzlement and investigators audited the Dawson County Clerk of Court’s financial records. The defendant’s niece, a former deputy court clerk for Dawson County, was allegedly caught improperly issuing checks to a contract worker from a cash bond account. The niece and the contract worker pled guilty to theft in 2010.
The investigators say that the audit revealed that the defendant was also taking money, although no evidence was revealed as to why prosecutors believe the defendant was responsible, rather than the two already accused.
The specific allegations are that the woman took a larger cut of passport processing fees than she was entitled to receive. Prosecutors say she wrote checks to herself between 2006 and 2009 and used the money for ordinary living expenses.
The woman was arrested in February 2010 on the state embezzlement charges and released on a $50,000 bond. At Tuesday’s arraignment hearing on the federal charges, she was granted a $10,000 bond, with the provision that she not travel beyond North Georgia.
She pled not guilty yesterday, but her criminal defense attorney says she may change her plea if they can resolve a dispute over the prosecution’s accounting of the actual loss suffered by Dawson County.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Court clerk accused of stealing $134,000,” Andria Simmons, April 26, 2011