News and Press Releases

Autauga County Man Pleads Guilty to $6.2 Million Theft

Ricky Nelson Dawson, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Employee, Converted Checks Payable to the Government

November 20, 2012

Montgomery, Alabama - Ricky Nelson Dawson, age 54, of Autauga County, pled guilty today to a one-count felony information charging him with wire fraud arising out of his theft of approximately $6.2 million in checks payable to the federal government, U.S. Attorney George L. Beck, Jr., announced today.

According to court records, Dawson, a United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) employee, had served since 2000 as director of the Bay Minette and Camden offices of USDA’s Rural Development programs. One of those programs was the Rural Utilities Service, which provided loans and grants to local water authorities and electric utilities (the “Authorities”).

Between March 2007 and May 2012, Dawson received checks—all payable to “Rural Development” or a variation thereof—from various Authorities representing funds intended as payment to USDA. Dawson embezzled the checks by depositing them into an account in the name “Ryal Development Farm” that he had opened at First Community Bank, in Chatom. On some of the checks, Dawson hand wrote the letter “y” over the “ur” in “Rural” to make it appear as if “Ryal” Development was the payee of the checks. The following chart summarizes Dawson’s activities:

Date Deposited

Amount ($)


March 22, 2007


East Central Baldwin County

January 10, 2008


Hobson Water System

April 4, 2008


Mexia Water System

November 3, 2008


Mexia Water System

December 8, 2008


Town of Autaugaville

February 18, 2009


St. Stephens Water System

August 21, 2009


Southern Pine Electric Cooperative

January 4, 2010


Freemanville Water System

January 22, 2010


Freemanville Water System

April 21, 2010


Freemanville Water System

September 28, 2010


Freemanville Water System

November 22, 2010


Perry County Water Authority

March 1, 2011


East Central Baldwin County

April 14, 2011


Perry County Water Authority

July 1, 2011


Autauga County Water Authority

December 9, 2011


West Dallas Water Authority

April 18, 2012


City of Thomasville Water Works and Sewer Board

May 4, 2012


City of Thomasville Water Works and Sewer Board




After depositing the checks, Dawson transferred the funds into his accounts at Regions Bank and E*TRADE Securities. He also used the funds from later thefts to make payments (a) to Authorities that were the payers of checks Dawson had previously converted, and (b) to USDA.

“Government employees that steal will be prosecuted,” stated U.S. Attorney Beck. “Government employees are held to a higher standard than the average citizen because government employees are watchdogs of our federal tax money. As a watchdog of our tax money, Dawson was in a position of trust and those in such a high position must be held accountable.”

When he is sentenced next year by United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson, Dawson faces a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years imprisonment. Dawson also agreed to forfeit (a) the balance in his E*Trade account in the amount of $165,157.30, (b) a 2010 Chrysler Sebring, and (c) a 2007 Procraft 18 foot motor boat. An order of restitution will also be entered.

United States Magistrate Judge Charles S. Coody released Dawson on a $25,000 unsecured bond pending sentencing.

The case was investigated by the FBI and by USDA’s Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew O. Schiff and Tommie B. Hardwick.


Telephone: (334) 551-1755
Fax: (334) 223-7617

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