Ex-employees, others indicted in ticket-fixing | ajc.com
By MARCUS K. GARNER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A DeKalb County grand jury on Thursday indicted three former DeKalb employees in a massive ticket-fixing scheme.
Five other non-employees were named in the 37-page indictment that includes racketeering charges and says county court workers and their friends profited from dismissing traffic tickets.
Over a nearly eight-year period, the eight people — including three former DeKalb Recorder’s Court deputy clerks — dismissed, closed out or destroyed traffic citations for money or retail vouchers, DeKalb District Attorney Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming said Thursday.
The court employees would charge people half the amount of the citation to have it disposed of, according to the indictment. Two Stone Mountain businesses were used as referral points, and 25 percent finder’s fees were paid. In some cases, people involved were given store credit for the affiliated businesses, Fleming said at the DeKalb courthouse.
The defendants “actually stole from the county, or prevented the county from collecting fees,” she said.
The cost to the county hasn’t been determined, Fleming said.
An independent report released in December showed that the Reporter’s Court took in as much as $150,000 per week in cash, cash bonds or surety bonds. But the report, given to the County Commission by consultants Ken Harris and B.J. Van Gundy, indicated “that less than 40 percent of those cash and surety bonds … are entered and tracked in the court’s [computer] system.”
Indicted Thursday were former court deputy clerks Charlene Nettles Johnson, Stephan Bruce Roberts and Adrian “Tony” Andrews.
Outside accomplices named in the indictment were Sonia Williams, Reshonda Counts, Marlene Findley, Tameka Shrone Johnson and Andrea Ariean Sinclair.
Fleming identified three others — former recording court employee Vanessa Adel Burks, former DeKalb probations office employee Tanzey Sankie and Brenda Singleton — who weren’t involved in the huge scam but were named independently in individual ticket fixing indictments, Fleming said.
Each of the individuals indicted has been arrested at some point and has bonded out of jail, Fleming said.
In all, 171 tickets were fixed in the multi-person scheme, according to the indictment. Fleming said that number accounts for only five years, the statutory limit for prosecution.
“But we found tickets as old as 2001 and 2002,” she said.
Charlene Johnson, Andrews and Roberts would solicit people with tickets to pay half the fine to one of them, and in exchange they would either “destroy the ticket, remove the ticket from the computer system, list the ticket as being dismissed on the computer system, or go to a judge and tell them falsely that the officer had requested a dismissal of the ticket,” the indictment said.
Findley and Counts were friends of Charlene Johnson and employees at Fidel’s Salon on Memorial Drive, where the indictment claimed they made referrals to the deputy clerks.
Shop owner Denise Johnson said she fired Findley last year when she discovered her involvement in the scam. She said she only learned Thursday that Counts also was involved.
“I had no idea that was going on,” Denise Johnson said by phone. “I can’t have that going on in my business.”
Williams owns a Stone Mountain clothing store — Glitzy Dazzle in — which customers of the scheme used as a “drop box,” bringing their tickets to be handled, the indictment said.
Williams also gave Charlene Johnson store credit for fixing Williams’ tickets and the tickets of those referred through Williams’ business, the indictment said. Williams declined comment when reached by phone at her business Thursday evening.
Each of the eight accomplices could face up to 40 years in jail, Fleming said.
Of those listed on individual indictments, Singleton was charged with bribery and conspiracy. Former county employees Burks and Sankie both have been accused of making false statements, officials said. Burks also was charged with public records fraud and Sankie with public records theft.