Final Defendant Pleads Guilty in Muscogee County Clerk Fraud Case
Eight Defendants Convicted in Scheme that Cost Taxpayers Millions
COLUMBUS, Ga. – An Alabama resident admitted her guilt today in a scheme orchestrated by her son-in-law that cost Muscogee County taxpayers millions of dollars.
Rosalie Bassi, 66, of Phenix City, Alabama, pleaded guilty to one count interstate transportation of stolen property before U.S. District Judge Clay Land. Bassi faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for June 2.
“Rosalie Bassi cashed more than $61,000 in checks belonging to the Muscogee County Clerk’s Office, given to her by her son-in-law, Willie Demps. She did this many times and pocketed the cash, profiting off the backs of taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “This extensive and treacherous theft would not have come to light without the assistance of the current Clerk of Courts, Danielle Forte, who called for an audit when she took office, discovered the fraud and took immediate action. Now, thanks to the efforts of federal and local law enforcement, the players involved in this long deceit have been held accountable for their federal crimes.”
"This was a methodical plan by Bassi, Demps and others to knowingly steal money from the taxpayers of Muscogee County," said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "Public corruption is the highest criminal priority for the FBI. We will always work with our local and federal partners to protect our citizens against officials who abuse their positions of trust."
“I am pleased with the outcome of this investigation. I want to thank all of our officers and our federal partners who worked diligently throughout this case. Any individual that seeks illegal gain from our taxpayers will be held accountable, just like everyone involved in this case,” said Columbus Police Department Chief Freddie Blackmon.
Willie Demps, 64, of Phenix City, Alabama, and the former Deputy Clerk of Courts for Muscogee County, Georgia, pleaded guilty to one count conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts tax evasion on Feb. 1. Demps faces a maximum sentence of 30 years of imprisonment for the conspiracy charge to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine. Demps faces a maximum five years of imprisonment for each tax evasion charge to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $100,000 fine. Demps will also pay restitution in an amount ordered by the Court at sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2022.
The following co-defendants pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and will be subject to a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine; in addition, each defendant will pay restitution in the amount of the checks cashed:
Curtis Porch, 48, of Columbus, pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2022;
Dereen Porch, 43, of Columbus, pleaded guilty on Nov. 30, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2022;
Terry McBride, 43, of Smiths Station, Alabama, pleaded guilty on Oct. 26, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2022;
Samuel Cole, 72, of Columbus, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2022; and,
George Cook, 33, of Columbus, pleaded guilty on Sept. 21, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2022.
The following co-defendant pleaded guilty to misprision of a felony and faces a maximum three years in prison to be followed by one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine:
Lamarcus Palmer, 34, of Smiths Station, Alabama, pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2021, and sentencing is scheduled for June 2, 2022.
According to court documents, Bassi admits she was contacted by her son-in-law, Willie Demps, approximately 16 times between Sept. 2015, and Feb. 2019, in order to cash checks belonging to the Muscogee County Clerk’s Office, where he was employed. Bassi cashed checks amounting to approximately $61,896.46, keeping the money and taking it to her home in Phenix City.
Demps worked for the Muscogee County Clerk for approximately 30 years and supervised money deposits received by the Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office received money from fines and condemnations, and payments were frequently made in cash. From at least 2010 to 2019, Demps maintained a safe in his office to store sums of cash that were collected by the Clerk’s Office. During the business day, this safe was rarely locked, even when Demps was away from his office. Demps (or his designee) was responsible for depositing cash received by the Clerk’s Office into an appropriate Clerk of Superior Court bank account. Records indicate that the Clerk’s Office received over $5.5 million in cash during the period of 2010-2019, yet only a single cash deposit of approximately $210 was made into official Columbus accounts in 2019. No cash deposits were made in other years.
From Oct. 19, 2010, to approximately Nov. 27, 2019, Demps issued at least 330 Clerk of Superior Court checks payable to the named co-defendants, and to some individuals not named, with a face value of at least $1.3 million. Bank records prior to Oct. 19, 2010, are not available, and the Muscogee County Clerk’s Office records prior to that date cannot be obtained. Demps would meet various co-defendants in locations away from his place of business at the Clerk’s Office to give the illicit checks to them to be cashed at banks in Columbus and in nearby Alabama. The co-defendants cashed the checks and returned the money to Demps, who would give the participating co-defendant a portion of the money. Demps admits he used the money for personal expenses, to send money to foreign countries and to spend at casinos.
Demps received cash deposits to his bank during the tax years 2018-2019, which he now admits were not the result of direct deposits from his lawful salary but rather proceeds from the money he stole from the Muscogee County Clerk’s Office. This money was not reported to the IRS and resulted in tax liability. Demps deposited $147,455 in cash in 2018 and $327,787 in cash in 2019 and fraudulently failed to account for these amounts as income on his tax returns. The IRS calculated Demps’s total amount of tax due from years 2015 to 2019 as $359,604.
FBI and the Columbus Police Department investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Helmick is prosecuting the case. Retired Assistant U.S. Attorney Mel Hyde initiated the prosecution of this case.