COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Assistant U.S. Attorney Mel Hyde said in a federal court hearing Wednesday, that additional charges are coming against a former Muscogee County Deputy Superior/State Court clerk accused of stealing nearly $500,000 in public funds.
“There will be [a] superseding indictment,” Hyde told the court. “There will be much, much more.”
Hyde told the court the amount could reach $1.5 million in alleged stolen funds.
Prosecutors asked for no bond, saying Demps was a flight risk. Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles agreed and ordered Demps held without bond. He is currently being detained in Lee County (Ala.) Detention Center. If convicted on all 70 counts of wire fraud and theft cited in the indictment, the 63-year-old Demps is facing spending the rest of his life in prison.
FBI Special Agent Kate K. Furtak testified that in a nine-year period from 2010-2019 when Demps was in charge of the clerk’s financial accounts, $5.4 million in cash fines and funds were collected. Records show that only $210 was deposited into official accounts.
Hyde asked if a representative from Superior Court Clerk Danielle Forté’s office was in the courtroom for the bond hearing. There was none.
“That’s amazing,” the judge said from the bench.
Forté has declined comment. Her attorney told News 3 that was done at the request of Hyde and the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The alleged thefts were discovered after Forté requested a transitional audit after being elected in November 2018. The feds allege that all the thefts in the indictment happened between January and November 2019. Demps abruptly retired in November 2019 after nearly three decades in the office. In an appointed position, Demps worked under four elected clerks.
Former Muscogee County Superior Court Clerk Linda Pierce was in the office for nearly three decades until she was defeated in 2016.
Reached Wednesday by WRBL, Pierce said she was “shocked” by the allegations against Demps, her top assistant in the office.
Pierce said she has cooperated with the FBI and was interviewed by agents last year. She would not go into specifics about what she was asked or told the FBI.
The clerk’s office conducted annual audits and no irregularities were found, Pierce told News 3.
Seven others have been indicted, but testimony said Demps was the center of the scheme. Others indicted were Curtis Porch, Dereen Porch, Terry McBride, Rosalee Bassi, Lamarcus Palmer, George Cook and Samuel Cole. None of them worked in public positions during 2019. Dereen Porch had previously worked for the Muscogee County Superior/State Court clerk’s office.
Only Demps is still in custody and being held without bond.
Demps was arrested last week at the Summer Lake Apartment Complex in Smiths Station, after dropping off his children at school.
Demps had been wiring funds overseas since 2010, Furtak told the court. He used Western Union to send $180,000 out of the country, much of it to Africa, specifically Cameroon. Another $150,000 was wired from a Demps’ credit union account. Between 2010-2019, more than $1 million in cash was deposited into that account.
Demps was previously interviewed by the FBI on Mar. 31, according to Furtak. On the same day, he received a target letter. On Nov. 13, Demps wife was interviewed by the FBI as well. Her response to the interrogation suggested he had a gambling problem. The two have been married since 2009 and she’s from Cameroon.
According to testimony, Demps was building a house in Africa.
Demps court-appointed attorney, Charles Cox, said he was not a risk of flight and that the court needs to determine the steps to prevent flight. It was then asked that Demps be electronically monitored.