COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — A Columbus man who stole millions of dollars from the Muscogee County Superior Clerk’s office will not have his sentence reduced, according to an opinion released by the U.S. Court of Appeals, 11th Circuit on Thursday.
Willie Demps asked the court to vacate the 145-month – more than 12 years – sentence handed down a year ago by U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land.
The federal appeals court affirmed Land’s decision even though the judge deviated from the sentencing guidelines and ordered Demps to spend additional time in prison.
Demps was 64 at the time he was sentenced on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of tax evasion.
“While the District Court did not specifically mention that it had considered Demps’s age, it did not have to mention that specifically,” the order read. “The Court stated that it had considered the guideline range, the factors, and the particular facts of the case. It did not need to do more than that. We cannot say that we are left with a firm and definite belief that the District Court’s sentence was a clear error of judgment.”
The Appeals Court found that the 24-month upward variance in Land’s sentence was “procedurally reasonable” because Land explained his reasons for the additional time.
“According to the Court, the variance was necessary to provide just punishment for each offense, account for the number of victims of his conspiracy and fraud, and reflect the seriousness of the offense and need to promote the rule of law,” the Appeals Court found. “The record is clear that the Court imposed the partly consecutive sentences to ensure Demps was punished
with imprisonment for each separate tax offense in addition to the conspiracy to commit bank fraud. The Court also emphasized that the number of victims in this case was actually higher than the PSR showed because Demps took advantage of friends and family members by making them a part of the scheme.”
Demps admitted to stealing checks from the Superior Court and State Court clerk’s office, writing those checks for random amounts, usually in the $3,000 to $5,000 range, then having the co-defendants cash those checks at three local banks.
According to court documents, Demps worked for the Muscogee County Clerk for approximately 30 years and supervised money deposits received by the Clerk’s Office, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Georgia.
The Clerk’s Office received money from fines and condemnations, and payments were frequently made in cash. From at least 2010 to 2019, Demps maintained a safe in his office to store sums of cash that were collected by the Clerk’s Office.
During the business day, this safe was rarely locked, even when Demps was away from his office. Demps (or his designee) was responsible for depositing cash received by the Clerk’s Office into an appropriate Clerk of Superior Court bank account. Records indicate that the Clerk’s Office received over $5.5 million in cash during the period of 2010-2019, yet only a single cash deposit of approximately $210 was made into official Columbus accounts in 2019.