COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Two additional co-defendants in a fraud case involving a former chief deputy clerk of Muscogee County Superior Court pleaded guilty Tuesday morning in federal court.
Now, three of the eight people accused of stealing more than $467,000 public funds have entered guilty pleas.
Samuel Cole and Lamarcus Palmer confessed to their parts in the 2019 conspiracy. Leaving Demps and four others facing a January 2022 trial in front of U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land. George Cook pleaded guilty two weeks ago to one count of bank fraud. He admitted in court to playing a role in the theft of more than $215,000 dollars.
The federal case against former Muscogee County Chief Deputy Superior Court Clerk Willie Demps continues to take shape. Demps, the public employee named in the August indictment, is at the center of the scheme, according to the feds. Demps worked in a leadership position with access to substantial public funds including fines, court costs, and forfeitures.
It is alleged that he stole clerk checks, made them out to individuals for sums ranging from $2,000 to $6,000, and those checks were cashed by his co-conspirators at three local banks, Synovus, SunTrust, and Colony Bank. The alleged fraud occurred between January 2019 and November 2019.
Demps is the only one of the eight codefendants who remains in custody.
Cole’s attorney tells News 3 his client will cooperate in the case against Demps.
“We are still working with the government, exploring all of our options,” said Robert Wadkins, Jr. “Right now, he’s accepted responsibility for what he’s done. And I think once we get to sentencing, we’ll show that a lot of the numbers that were thrown around, a very small portion is attributable to Mr. Cole.”
Tuesday morning, Cole admitted to cashing more than $378,000 in fraudulent Superior Court Clerk’s checks at the three Columbus banks in 2019. After pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud, he faces up to 30 years in prison, a possible $1 million dollar fine, and will have to pay back $378,020 dollars to the clerk’s office.
In the statement of facts by prosecutor Mel Hyde, Cole admitted to criminal acts that dated back to 2014, though they were not specified in the indictment.
“As the facts will show, this was a longtime thing that Mr. Cole was a very small part of,” Wadkins said. “But this has gone back pretty substantially.”
Palmer pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony. Meaning he had knowledge of a felony and failed to report it.
Palmer was a landscaper who did some work for co-defendant Terry McBride. He was given three stolen clerk’s checks totaling more than $12,000 by McBride. He cashed those and was paid the $400 he was owed for the landscape work, he admitted to the court.
Palmer is facing up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his role in the conspiracy.
Palmer and his attorney, Barbara Agricola, declined comment.
Judge Land said the pretrial hearings would start late this year. He said any of the other codefendants considering guilty pleas should enter them by that time. Phil, Teresa.