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Press Release

Autauga County Man Sentenced To 60 Months For $6.2 Million Theft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Alabama

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

Montgomery, Alabama - Ricky Nelson Dawson, age 54, of Autauga County, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Myron H. Thompson to a prison term of 60 months based on his conviction for 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


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 payors of checks Dawson had previously converted, and (b) to USDA. The net amount taken by Dawson after the “repayments” came to approximately $3.8 million. A hearing to determine restitution will be scheduled within 90 days.

Dawson has been free on a $25,000 unsecured bond. He was ordered to report to prison on May 31, 2013.

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

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

Updated March 12, 2015

Press Release Number: January 10, 2008