Former HR Director Pleads Guilty, Facing $118k Payback of Stolen Funds
ATHENS, Ga. – The former human resources director for Oconee County, Georgia has admitted to stealing taxpayer money in a complicated paycheck scheme, said Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
Sherry Turner-Seila, 52, of Panama City Beach, Florida, formerly of Watkinsville, Georgia, entered a guilty plea today to one count aggravated identity theft before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal. The defendant faces a mandatory two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year supervised release. In addition, the signed plea agreement states that both parties agree the defendant owes $118,451.80 in restitution to Oconee County. Sentencing is scheduled for November 18, 2020. There is no parole in the federal system.
Turner-Seila was employed as the Human Resources Director for Oconee County. As such, she was one of the few employees with access to the County’s payroll system, which transferred funds directly from the county bank account to the bank accounts of county employees. From July 6, 2016 to July 5, 2019, Turner-Seila concocted a scheme where she would use that access to temporarily change a former employee’s direct deposit information to her own personal bank account’s direct deposit information. In all, Turner-Seila stole $118,451.80 from Oconee County taxpayers.
“The defendant used her position and access to systematically steal money from Oconee County taxpayers—a deception she kept up over many years. Theft of the public trust is a serious offense, and our office will prosecute those who use their positions of power for illegal gains,” said U.S. Attorney Charlie Peeler. “I want to thank the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI for investigating this case.”
"This was a methodical plan by Turner-Seila to knowingly steal money from the tax payers of Oconee County," said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. "Public corruption is a priority for the FBI and we continue to work with our local and federal partners to protect our citizens against officials who abuse their positions of trust."
"We are pleased with the swift work by the US Attorney's Office and FBI. This case was a serious matter to many county employees and their families. We are very pleased with the guilty plea,” said Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Leary prosecuted the case for the Government. Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.