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DeKalb County official, businessman plead guilty to check scheme

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DeKalb County official, businessman plead guilty to check scheme

DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.
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DeKalb County Georgia. Source: Google Maps.

A businessman and the former DeKalb County Chief Operating Officer have both pleaded guilty to their role in a check reimbursement scheme, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office says.

Businessman Douglas Cotter, 54 pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of theft by taking and must pay $4,000 in restitution. Morris Williams, the former DeKalb County COO, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor obstruction.

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The charges stem from 2011. According to the District Attorney’s Office, when Williams was chief of staff for the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners he  “intercepted” a $4,000 check from Water Removal Services made out to Lee May, who was a commissioner at the time.

“The check was commissioned by Mr. Cotter, a county contractor and local businessman affiliated with the water removal company,” the District Attorney’s Office says. “The check was touted as a reimbursement for over payment for services at May’s home following damage caused by a broken county pipe. The check was given to Morris Williams, endorsed by an unknown signatory, and cashed at an establishment owned by Mr. Cotter’s family.”

When the story was first reported, then Interim CEO May said “a fraud has been committed using my name and my position.” The guilty pleas support May’s account, and he has not been implicated in the matter, the DA’s Office said.

“The scheme came to light after a tip from an anonymous source,” the DA’s Office said. “Though originally indicted as a felony case, the State agreed to a plea agreement involving misdemeanor charges in an effort to protect the identity of that source, along with other prosecution factors.”

Cotter and Williams were sentenced to 12 months’ probation, will pay a $1,000 fine and will be required to perform 80 hours of community service, the DA’s Office said.

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