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5th suspect surrenders in clerk's office probe

Former GBI leader named interim clerk

5th suspect surrenders in clerk's office probe

5th suspect surrenders in clerk's office probe

Marion Puckett Williams


    The last of five women indicted after a probe into complaints at the Bulloch County Clerk of Courts office turned herself in to authorities Friday, four days after a Bulloch County grand jury returned the indictments.
    Also on Friday, former Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Charles Sikes, who served the Statesboro office, was named interim clerk of courts. Current clerk Teresa Tucker and former clerk Sherri Akins were among the five current and former clerk’s office employees indicted Monday.
    Tucker, acting as the clerk of courts, signed the indictment document that named her, Akins and the current and former deputy clerks.
    After a probe by the GBI that lasted almost three years and focused on records and collection practices of traffic fines and fees, former deputy clerk Marion Puckett Williams was charged with felony theft by conversion, public record fraud and violation of oath by public officer. While the four other suspects turned themselves in Wednesday, Williams was reportedly out of town until Friday.
    She was released on bond Friday after being booked into the Bulloch County Jail.
    Williams, as well as deputy clerk Leatha Deloach, Tucker, Akins and former deputy clerk Amanda Smith, were each charged with felony theft by conversion and violation of oath by public officer.
    The indictment alleges that each incidence of theft by conversion took place between Jan. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2010, though the exact dates were unknown. Each theft by conversion count specifies that funds intended for deposit in a Bulloch County bank account were diverted to the personal use of Tucker, Akins and the current and former deputy clerks.
    Felony theft by conversion means at least $25,000 in money was diverted from official use. A conviction carries a prison sentence of two to 20 years for each count, according to the Georgia Code.
    Akins worked part-time at the office after her retirement from the elected position.
    Smith left her position in June while Williams was terminated in 2011 after admitting marijuana use when employers suspected she was under the influence at work, according to records released by the county.
    The violation of oath charges refer to the theft by conversion charges. In other words, according to the indictment, by diverting county funds to personal use, each suspect “did willfully and intentionally violate the terms of her oath … by converting funds belonging to Bulloch County to her own use.” Those violations occurred between Aug. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2010, the indictment says.
    Conviction of a violation of oath of public officer charge carries a prison sentence of one to five years for each count, according to the Georgia Code.
    Smith and Williams were the only ones charged with public records fraud – incidents that also occurred between Aug. 1, 2009, and Aug. 31, 2010, according to the indictment. The charge stipulates that Smith and Williams “falsified records pertaining to the amount of traffic fines that were paid to Bulloch County.” 
    Conviction on the fraud charge carries a prison sentence of two to 10 years for each count, according to the Georgia Code.
    Bulloch County Staff Attorney Jeff Akins said Friday that Sikes was named interim clerk of courts by Bulloch County Superior Court Chief Judge William T. Woodrum.
    Sikes was not immediately available for comment Friday.

    Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.   

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