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Woman arrested for defrauding local agencies after fire
Mary Tillis - photo by Special
    A woman sheriff's investigators have been seeking for months regarding fraud is behind bars on multiple charges, having been captured in  the Macon area.
    Mary Elizabeth  Tillis, 48, formerly of Cowboy Way, Portal, has been fleeing law enforcement for months after warrants were issued for her arrest stemming from complaints she fraudulently obtained goods and services after her family's home burned just before Christmas last year, said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson.    
    Tillis  is charged with two counts of felony theft by  taking, financial transaction card fraud and criminally receiving goods and services fraudulently obtained, which is also a felony, he said.
    Tillis was out of state in December when the mobile home on Cowboy Way burned, he said.
    "They said they were in Tennessee on vacation" when the home burned, said Bulloch County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Gene McDaniel.
    After the fire, local agencies stepped in to help her family, as is customary when a family loses a home and possessions in a fire or other disaster.
    The Statesboro Herald published a story shortly after the fire, describing Tillis' plight as well as that of another family in the Statesboro area whose home had burned around the same time.
     The story pointed out differences between the other family, who had resources to fall back upon after their fire, and the Tillis  family, whom Tillis said had no help other than that of local agencies and donors.
    However, as the weeks went by, several people became suspicious about Tillis, he said.
    In December and January, Bulloch County Sheriff's deputies began responding to " several complaints from government  and private social service and aide agencies about having been defrauded," Anderson said.
    "Personnel from each agency reported they were assisting (Tillis') family ... just before Christmas. The agencies received information that the residents misstated or provided false or incorrect information to the agencies when they filed for assistance," he said.
    "They reported more people living in the house than were actually living there," thus obtaining additional services, vouchers, food and money, McDaniel said.
    A local restaurant had even been providing meals for the Tillis family, he said.
    Anderson said when investigators began looking into the allegations, Tillis and her family disappeared.
    "Investigation into the complaints resulted in warrants being issued for ... Tillis," he said. "Attempts to locate Tillis over the past few months failed until last (Monday) night when she was arrested by the  Fugitive Task Force in Bibb County."
    Bulloch County Sheriff's deputies went to the Bibb County Jail and transported Tillis back to the Bulloch County Jail, he said.
    She is being held without bond and is slated for a court appearance soon, he said.
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