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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Georgia

Monday, December 16, 2013

Former Clarkston Councilwoman Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement Scheme

ATLANTA – Former Clarkston City Councilwoman Joan Swaney has pleaded guilty to embezzling over $60,000 from a local community center.

“As a Clarkston councilwoman, Swaney’s personal motto was ‘live with purpose, act with integrity,’” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “Unfortunately, she failed to live up to these ideals when she stole tens of thousands of dollars from the Clarkston Community Center.”

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court:  The Clarkston Community Center (CCC) was established in 1994 in the former Clarkston High School and serves a diverse community in the Clarkston area.  The CCC includes classrooms and an auditorium as well as activity fields for sports and other outdoor events.  The CCC focuses on educational and recreational activities in the Clarkston area.  Swaney was employed by the CCC from November 2003 until December 2012.  During this time, Swaney was its office manager.  Her responsibilities included bookkeeping and other administrative tasks.

In 2010, Joan Swaney, 67, of Clarkston, Ga., was elected to serve on the City Council in Clarkston.  She also served as Clarkston's Vice Mayor during her tenure.  Swaney resigned her position in October 2013 after she was indicted by a federal grand jury in this case. 

As part of her normal duties, Swaney regularly received reimbursements for supplies she purchased on behalf of the CCC.  Normally, receipts for expenses incurred and a purchase authorization form for CCC expenses were maintained for each transaction in order to document expenses.  In 2010, Swaney began to write checks to herself from the CCC's bank account at BB&T.  Between 2010 and 2012, she made the checks payable directly to herself and forged the signature of the CCC's Director.  The checks were written without the authorization of the CCC's Director who managed the day-to-day affairs of the CCC.

Swaney deposited the forged checks into her personal account and used the CCC's funds to pay personal expenses and her personal credit card bills.  During this period, she used CCC funds to pay for a variety of personal expenses including:

  • Charges totaling $1,424 in June 2010 for a family vacation;
  • Charges totaling approximately $3,000 in September 2010 for personal vehicle repairs; and
  • Charges totaling $1,590 in June 2011 for a charter boat rental.

Swaney varied the check amounts and made fictitious entries in the memo lines of the checks in order to make it appear the funds had been spent on expenses relating to the CCC's operations.  At the same time, she also used the CCC debit card to withdraw cash from the CCC's BB&T bank account, generally withdrawing between $300 and $600 at a time.  Swaney made cash withdrawals using the debit card at least once or twice a month.  The loss to the CCC exceeded $60,000.

The charges in this case carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.   In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Swaney’s sentencing is scheduled for March 6th, 2014, at 10:00 a.m.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Assistant United States Attorney Kurt Erskine is prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.

Updated April 8, 2015