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Agent: $210 of $5.9M cash deposited in court clerk accounts

August 26, 2021 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) — Only $210 in cash was deposited in accounts for a Georgia county court during years in which the clerk’s office received $5.9 million in cash, an FBI agent told a federal magistrate judge.

The cash was collected from 2010 to 2019, Special Agent Kate Furtak testified Wednesday at a detention hearing for former Muscogee County deputy court clerk Willie Demps, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.

Demps, who worked 30 years for the clerk’s office, is among eight people accused of stealing more than $467,000 from the office in 2019.

Authorities expect to ask for a superseding indictment totaling $1.5 million, Assistant U.S. Attorney Melvin Hyde told U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Hyles.

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“There is much, much more,” Hyde said.

The judge agreed with prosecutors that Demps, currently being held in Opelika, Alabama, should stay jailed as a flight risk.

Defense attorney Charlie Cox argued that Demps, 63, of Phenix City, Alabama, stayed put even after he knew he was being investigated. His wife is from Cameroon and they have relatives in Nigeria, Cox told the judge.

Outside the courthouse, he said, “We’re on the front end of this. We’ll see what develops as I begin to go through discovery and I figure out what the facts are.”

Demps was charged last week with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 35 counts of wire fraud and 34 of interstate transportation of stolen property.

The indictment accuses him of writing clerk’s office checks to accomplices who cashed them at Columbus banks.

Much of the money is still unaccounted for, Hyde said.

The detention motion filed last week said Demps “wired or caused to be wired over $500,000 to various locations in Africa” between 2010 and 2018.

“The money primarily went to Africa, and Cameroon specifically,” Furtak testified.

She said it went to 40 people in countries including Nigeria, Senegal, Gabon, Gambia, Ecuador and Canada.

Furtek said Demps wired money so often that Western Union eventually refused his business, suspecting him of laundering money.

Demps then began having others wire money for him, and sending it through another service or from an account of his own in Columbus, Furtek said.

She said the IRS has found that Demps has never reported more than $38,531 in income, though records show he gained about $1 million from 2010 to 2019.

As the hearing ended, the judge asked whether anyone was present to represent the Superior Court Clerk’s office, the victim in Demps’ case.

No one stood.

“Amazing,” the judge said. “That’s absolutely amazing, but so be it.”

Superior Court Clerk Danielle Forte texted the newspaper that, “so as to not interfere with any outcome, I’ve been asked not to comment on the case by the U.S. Attorneys’ office.”

She said last week that she asked for an audit and investigation when she took office in 2018.

The others indicted include four residents of Columbus, and one from Lawrenceville, Georgia, and two people from Smiths Station, Alabama.