Ozark Woman Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement Charges
Montgomery, Alabama - Mara Balkcom, a 43-year-old resident of Ozark, Alabama, pleaded guilty today to a one-count felony information charging her with embezzlement from an organization receiving federal funds, United States Attorney Leura G. Canary announced.
According to court records, Balkcom was employed as Administrative Coordinator by Wiregrass RC & D Council (“Wiregrass”) in Ozark, Alabama. Wiregrass was an organization that received, in a one year period, benefits in excess of $10,000 under a Federal program involving a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, and other form of Federal assistance, namely, from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture.
Between November 13, 2006, and February 20, 2007, Balkcom knowingly obtained for herself, without authority, more than $5,000 under the custody and control of Wiregrass. She accomplished this by writing seven checks to herself, each in the amount of $795.29, for a total of $5567.03. These funds were over and above her authorized salary, which she also collected during this time period. The court will determine the total amount embezzled at sentencing–in the plea agreement, the Government agreed to recommend a sentencing range based on an amount of loss between $70,000 and $120,000; the defendant reserved her right to argue that a lesser amount was involved.
When Balkcom is sentenced by United States District Judge W. Keith Watkins, she faces a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment, a term of supervised release of no more than 3 years, a fine of up to $250,000 (or, if greater, twice the loss to the victims), and an order of restitution. Today, United States Magistrate Judge Susan R. Walker released Balkcom on a $25,000 unsecured bond pending sentencing.
The case was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of
Inspector General and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation and was prosecuted by Assistant
U.S. Attorney Andrew O. Schiff.
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