Monday, August 10, 2015

UPDATE: Ex-Probate clerk Kim Birge to plead guilty in theft case on Friday

Former longtime Chatham County Probate Court Chief Clerk Kim Birge is scheduled to plead guilty Friday to charges of stealing or embezzling more than $700,000 from the court over a three-year period.

According to court documents, Birge has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors and will change her not guilty plea to some or all of the five-count indictment during a session before U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr.

The government’s notice of a plea agreement, which was entered on Monday, simply states “that a plea agreement has been reached by the parties which would dispose of the charges pending in the … case against the defendant.”

A copy of that agreement has been provided to Moore for his consideration, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scarlett Nokes said in the filing.

Typically a defense attorney, in Birge’s case attorney Tom Withers, will negotiate a deal where the defendant will plead guilty to some of the charges, with the government dismissing others in return for a plea agreement.

Final determinations on sentencing are the judge’s alone. Details of Birge’s accord will not be made public until the actual court hearing.

Birge, 61, remains free on a $40,000 unsecured bond pending disposition of the case.

Birge was named May 18 in a five-count indictment that included four counts of mail fraud by using the mail to defraud Chatham County out of $700,000 between January 2011 and November 2014 and then using the cash for her own benefit.

A fifth count charged federal program fraud. It alleged she stole about $767,218 between Jan. 1, 2014, and Dec. 31, 2014, from Chatham County, money that involved a federal grant.

The count included the same funds and time frame as the mail fraud counts.

Included in the indictment is a forfeiture allegation in which the government says, if she’s convicted, it will try to recover “any property, real or personal” derived from the offense.

The indictment charged that Birge in her capacity as chief clerk of Probate Court was authorized to conduct transactions in at least two court bank accounts but “was not authorized to conduct transactions in the Probate Court bank accounts for the benefit of herself or her family.”

It charges she would sign court orders to direct insurance companies, private businesses, public employers, banks and other entities to send funds to the court “for the benefit of minors and other individuals who had conservatorships” established in Chatham County.

A conservatorship establishes someone to watch out for money or property for minors or incompetents in the court.

Birge would then deposit fees paid to the court into one of two bank accounts maintained by the court and make representations that the money would be used for court matters, the indictment charged.

She would then forge the signatures of conservators and/or their attorneys to create false documents to disburse the money, would use the cash from negotiated checks for her personal use and would fail to disclose her activities to others in the court, the indictment charged.

Probate Judge Harris Lewis fired Birge on Dec. 2 in what was described as “in the best interests” of the court.

He had placed Birge on investigative suspension without pay Nov. 20 during a probe of “discrepancies with the services that you are responsible for handling,” Lewis said in a Nov. 20 letter.

As part of Lewis’ initial action, Birge has been barred from entering the Montgomery Street courthouse or discussing any matters related to the investigation “with anyone other than investigatory staff, unless otherwise directed to do so.”

The action came in wake of a reported federal/Savannah-Chatham police probe of undisclosed activity.

Full Article & Source:
UPDATE: Ex-Probate clerk Kim Birge to plead guilty in theft case on Friday

See Also:
Kim Birge pleads not guilty to Probate Court fraud charges 

Former Probate Court clerk Kim Birge indicted in theft of more than $700,000 from the court

1 comment:

Barbara said...

Hope she gets extended jail time.