On Friday a guilty plea was entered by Kim Burge, ex Chief Clerk at Chatham County Probate Court, to the theft of $232,000. The government claims the thefts from the probate court over 3 years netted in excess of $750,000. Birge admitted to the theft and abusing her position within the Probate court. She admitted using deposits for her own benefit. Part of the scheme, as per the government charge, was the use of private commercial couriers and US Mail and secreted funds from probate court accounts.
Under the negotiated plea Birge pleads guilty to count 3 of a 5 count indictment, charges cover the fraud that lasted from January 2011 until around November 2011. Charges are federal program fraud and mail fraud. The pleaded charged that from September 21st 2011 and October 18th 2011 a check payable to Chatham County Probate Court for $232,000 was among checks she misappropriated for her own use.
The government has agreed to the dismissal of the remaining counts. However probation officers could consider the endictment in it’s entirety in sentencing guidelines. Final sentencing is down to the District Judge alone. District Judge Moore also advised within federal sentencing parole is abolished. The sentence will be served without parole. Birge remains free on $400,000 bond subject to sentencing probably in the new year.
The Probate Court had an account in South State Bank and at First Chatham Bank. An amount of $750,000 was taken out of both accounts. Checks solely for Birge and made out for cash. This was confirmed in a statement by a U.S. Secret Service Agent. The exact amount stolen amounts to $767,219. The agent was asked about audits at the probate court by the District Judge. An audit had been carried out several years prior. Another government audit and a further audit by a third party firm under the authority of Chatham County following the discovery.
The plea agreement recommends lower end guidelines. The agreement is not a limitation to the sum pleaded and may be inclusive the total amount as alleged within the indictment.
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