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Braselton's clerk of court charged with embezzling funds from city court

Becky Skelton resigned Tuesday following three-week investigation

POSTED: June 25, 2009 11:12 p.m.
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Becky Skelton

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BRASELTON — Braselton’s clerk of court has resigned and been charged with embezzling $15,000 worth of bonds from the town’s municipal court system, according to town officials.

Becky Skelton, 47, of Braselton was arrested following a three-week investigation by the Braselton Police Department into missing bond money. Det. Sgt. J.D. Gille said the investigation "involved the disappearance of cash bonds posted for bail by defendants during the course of traffic stops."

"I was approached by the financial officer for the town of Braselton to advise me she thought there were bonds that weren’t accounted for in the municipal court," Gille explained. "The investigation revealed the clerk of court has not followed the cash bond process and thus has embezzled $15,000 for the period of July 2008 to May 19, 2009."

Skelton was asked to resign on Tuesday and turned herself into the Jackson County Jail on Wednesday, Gille said.

Skelton was charged with one count of violating an oath of office by a public official and 14 counts of theft by taking. Her bond was set at $31,000, which was posted Wednesday evening, according to Maj. David Cochran of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Braselton’s clerk of court position entails a number of responsibilities, Town Manager Jennifer Dees said.

"The clerk of court processes citations that are turned in to be heard in that court, and they do everything during court to assist the judge," Dees said. "They handle all the info needed for probation in order to monitor those individuals and they handle transfers to state court for those who wants to have a jury trial."

When a crime is committed within the town limits, it goes through the municipal court system in Braselton. Citations for traffic citations and city ordinance violations that don’t require a court date can be paid at the Braselton Police Department and Municipal Court building on Ga. 53.

But if a person committed a crime and was taken to jail — in Braselton’s case, offenders are held at the Gwinnett County Jail — they have their bond set at a certain amount and will be released by paying a percentage of the bond or set a property bond, where they put up a piece of property within the county for bail.

When the case goes to the municipal court, offenders may receive part or all of the bond money back if the judge determines the person is not guilty or if the fine they need to pay is less than the bond amount.

Dees said to her knowledge, the money found missing through the investigation did not affect anyone who came through the municipal court system who could receive the bond money they paid.

She also said the town has a set of checks and balances to help prevent embezzlement from occurring, but the procedures were changed once she and the town’s finance director, Nan Edwards, realized there was a problem with the money collected through the municipal court system.

"The finance director and I thought there might be a problem and did some information checking on our side and that’s when we asked an investigator to look into the situation," Dees explained. "Because the procedures we had in place — which we thought worked — were not working, we have put in a different set of procedures. We instituted those when we thought there was a problem so that this wouldn’t affect anyone else."

Dees added that the evidence and all the information that came out of the investigation has been given to the Piedmont Circuit District Attorney’s office, which will handle the case from here.



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