Former Muscogee County Deputy Clerk Sentenced for Multi-Million Dollar Fraud |

COLUMBUS — The former deputy clerk of Muscogee County Court pleaded guilty to bank fraud and tax evasion charges in a scheme that cost the county millions of dollars.

Willie Demps, 64, of Phenix City, Ala., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of tax evasion before U.S. District Judge Clay Land. Demps faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the conspiracy charge, followed by five years of supervised release and a $1 million fine. Demps faces a maximum prison sentence of five years for each tax evasion charge, followed by three years of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. Demps will also pay restitution in an amount ordered by the court at sentencing.

Judgment is scheduled for June 2.

“Rather than serve the people of Muscogee County, Willie Demps served only himself,” U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary said. “Over many years, Demps used his position of trust to steal millions of dollars from Muscogee County taxpayers to fund his gambling habit and pay for various personal expenses.”

“Demps’ plea is the result of the hard work and determination of investigators and prosecutors who are aggressively pursuing allegations of bank fraud,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is determined to prosecute anyone who chooses to take advantage of their position of trusted employment for their own personal greed, especially at the expense of honest taxpaying citizens.”

“I am pleased with the outcome of this case,” Columbus Police Department Chief Freddie Blackmon said. “Furthermore, I appreciate the hard work our investigators and federal partners have put into this case.”

The following co-defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and will face a maximum statutory sentence of 30 years in prison, followed by five years of probation and a $1 million fine; in addition, each defendant will pay restitution in the amount of the checks cashed:

♦ Curtis Porch, 48, of Columbus, pleaded guilty Nov. 30, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2;

♦ Dereen Porch, 43, of Columbus, pleaded guilty Nov. 30, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2;

♦ Terry McBride, 43, of Smiths Station, Alabama, pleaded guilty on October 26, 2021 and sentencing is scheduled for June 2;

♦ Samuel Cole, 72, of Columbus, pleaded guilty on October 5, 2021 and sentencing is scheduled for June 2;

♦ George Cook, 33, of Columbus, pleaded guilty on September 21, 2021 and sentencing is scheduled for June 2.

The following co-defendant pleaded guilty to mistaken committal of a felony and faces a maximum of three years in prison followed by one year of supervised release and a fine of $250,000: Lamarcus Palmer, 34, of Smiths Station, Ala., pleaded guilty on Oct. .5, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2.

The following co-accused pleaded not guilty. Her trial is currently scheduled for February 28: Rosalee Bassi is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, followed by five years of probation and a fine of 1 million. of dollars. A criminal indictment only contains allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty by a court.

According to court documents, Demps worked for the Muscogee County Clerk for about 30 years and oversaw deposits of money received by the clerk’s office. The clerk’s office received money from fines and convictions, and payments were often made in cash. From 2010 to at least 2019, Demps maintained a safe in his office to store sums of money that were collected by the clerk’s office. During the workday, this safe was rarely locked, even when Demps was not at his desk. Demps (or his representative) was responsible for depositing cash received by the Clerk’s Office into an appropriate Superior Court Clerk’s bank account.

Records indicate that the Clerk’s Office received over $5.5 million in cash during the 2010-2019 period, but only one cash deposit of approximately $210 was made to official Columbus accounts in 2019. No cash deposits were made in other years. From October 19, 2010 to approximately November 27, 2019, Demps issued at least 330 checks from the Clerk of the Superior Court payable to named co-defendants and certain unnamed individuals, with a face value of at least $1.3 million. of dollars. Bank statements prior to October 19, 2010 are not available and statements from the Muscogee County Clerk’s Office prior to that date cannot be obtained.

Demps would meet with various co-defendants in locations away from his place of business at the clerk’s office to give them the illicit checks to cash at banks in Columbus and neighboring Alabama. The co-defendants cashed the checks and returned the money to Demps, who would give the participating co-defendant some of the money.

Demps admits he used the money for personal expenses, to send money abroad and to spend in casinos. Demps received cash deposits in his bank during the 2018-2019 tax years, which he now admits were not the result of direct deposits from his legal salary, but rather the proceeds of the money he stole. at the Muscogee County Clerk’s Office. This money was not reported to the IRS and resulted in a tax liability.

Demps deposited $147,455 in cash in 2018 and $327,787 in cash in 2019 and fraudulently failed to report those amounts as income on his tax returns. The IRS calculated the total amount of tax owed by Demps from 2015 to 2019 at $359,604.

The FBI, IRS and the Columbus Police Department investigated the case. Assistant US Attorney Amy Helmick is pursuing the case. Retired Assistant United States Attorney Mel Hyde filed the charges in the case.

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