Former Muscogee County Deputy Clerk Convicted in Multimillion-Dollar Fraud, Co-Defendants Plead Guilty to Related Charges
COLUMBUS, Ga. – The former Deputy Clerk of Muscogee County Court pleaded guilty to bank fraud and tax evasion charges in a scheme that cost the county millions of dollars.
Willie Demps, 64, of Phenix City, Alabama, pleaded guilty to one count conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts tax evasion before U.S. District Judge Clay Land today. Demps faces a maximum sentence of 30 years 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 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.
“Rather than serve the people of Muscogee County, Willie Demps served only himself. Over the course of many years, Demps used his position of trust to steal millions of dollars from Muscogee County taxpayers to fund his gambling habit and pay for a variety of personal expenses,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “I want to commend the investigators with the FBI, IRS and Columbus Police Department for their meticulous and relentless effort to seek justice in this case.”
“Demps’s plea is the result of the hard work and determination of investigators and prosecutors who aggressively pursue allegations of bank fraud,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is determined to pursue anyone who would choose to take advantage of their trusted position of employment for their own personal greed, especially at the expense of honest tax paying citizens.”
“Willie Demps’ actions were egregious in nature,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey. “In addition to abusing his position of trust, Mr. Demps perpetrated multiple schemes over a long period of time to steal from the public and evade payment of taxes. IRS-CI will continue to work with our law enforcement partners use our enforcement of the tax law and financial expertise to hold such individuals accountable for their actions.”
“I am pleased with the outcome of this case,” said Columbus Police Department Chief Freddie Blackmon. “Also, I am appreciative of hard work that our investigators and our federal partners put into this case. If anyone commits illegal acts, we are certainly going after them for an arrest and conviction.”
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.
The following co-defendant has not pled guilty. Her trial is currently scheduled for February 28, 2022:
Rosalee Bassi is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years imprisonment to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine. A criminal indictment merely contains allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
According to court documents, 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, IRS 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.