The longtime supervisor in the Muscogee Superior Court Clerk’s office jailed over a theft of funds that might have topped $1 million is in plea negotiations, records show.
Federal court filings show attorneys have agreed Willie Demps’ tax records will be shielded from public disclosure as they negotiate his pleading to tax evasion.
“The United States and defendant Willie Demps are negotiating a plea agreement in this case,” reads a Jan. 13 filing from U.S. Attorney Peter Leary.
“The parties anticipate that defendant Demps will plead guilty to ... Information which includes a charge of tax evasion,” it adds. “The discovery materials for this additional charge or charges contains confidential tax returns and taxpayer return information.”
U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land issued an order the same day, restricting access to those records to Demps and the attorneys involved.
A pretrial conference in the case is set for Feb. 1. “In case of a plea, counsel shall email notification of the plea, and a copy of the plea agreement if possible, to the courtroom deputy,” Land wrote in a court order.
Demps’ attorney, Charles Cox of Macon, Georgia, was not immediately available for comment Monday morning.
Besides Demps, only one defendant is left to resolve charges, Rosalee Bassi, his mother in law.
She and other codefendants were accused of helping Demps steal at least $467,000 from accounts that Demps managed while working nearly 30 years for the clerk’s office, part of that time as chief deputy clerk.
Demps managed funds for which he was authorized to write checks on Superior Court Clerk accounts at area banks. He recruited others to help him cash those checks, sometimes meeting them outside the bank branches, or outside the Columbus Government Center where he worked, authorities said.
The accounts he oversaw held court funds derived from felony and misdemeanor fines, forfeitures and condemnations. The accounts were at Synovus Financial Corp., SunTrust Bank and Colony Bank.
Demps’ indictment said he took blank office checks, wrote them to codefendants and signed them, before they took the checks to be cashed.
One bank cashed so many checks that Demps’ phone number was posted by tellers’ windows, to call for authorization, his indictment said.
Demps was arrested Aug. 18, 2021, after he and his codefendants’ 71-count indictment alleged wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and transporting stolen goods and money.
Prosecutors later said significantly more government funds still were missing. An FBI agent testified last year that out of $5.9 million in cash collected by the clerk’s office from 2010 to 2019, only $210 was deposited to office accounts.
Demps was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 35 counts of wire fraud and 34 counts of interstate transportation of stolen property. If convicted on those counts, he would face up to 30 years on each conspiracy charge, 20 years on each count of wire fraud and 10 years on each interstate transportation charge, authorities said.
Besides Bassi, 65, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, others charged in the alleged scheme were: