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Hall woman accused of embezzling $1 million

Clermont resident had worked for Makita USA since 1988

POSTED: July 13, 2008 5:01 a.m.
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Peggy Leigh Walker

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Peggy Leigh Walker, who worked in the accounting department of Buford toolmaker Makita USA for nearly 20 years, owes her former employer $3 million.

The 42-year-old Clermont woman also faces the possibility of prison time after being indicted by a Gwinnett County grand jury on charges she systematically embezzled more than $1 million from the Buford Highway plant since at least 1999.

Walker was arrested on charges of theft by taking and computer password disclosure in January and released from the Gwinnett County jail on $22,000 bond. In March, a Hall County judge ruled against Walker in a default judgment stemming from a civil suit brought by Makita, ordering her to pay the company $3.1 million, or about triple what she allegedly stole.

On Wednesday, Makita USA Vice President Tim Donovan said Walker’s case is pending arraignment in Gwinnett County Superior Court.

"It is an active case and we are of course pursuing it with the Gwinnett County Police Department and the Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office," Donovan said.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter did not return a phone message left at his office Wednesday. It could not be determined who is representing Walker. Calls to a number listed for her Clermont home went unanswered.

Court documents filed by lawyers for Makita in Hall County Superior Court state that Walker was hired on with the company’s accounting department in 1988 and promoted to a supervisory position in 1995, with access to online banking functions that included making payments to vendors. In 2005, she was promoted to the position of accounting manager at the company, which employs more than 400 full-time and temporary workers.

Company officials believe Walker manipulated the books to cover her thefts, inflating legitimate health care vendor payments on the company ledgers and pocketing the difference with transfers to her own bank account.

According to court documents, officials found 220 unauthorized transfers totaling more than $1 million between December 1999 and April 2007. Walker is suspected of using a company password to continue stealing after she left Makita in April 2006, transferring $40,000 to her bank account in April 2007, according to court documents.

She also was suspected in at least one theft of petty cash.

The thefts were discovered after a health insurance processor contacted the company in May 2007 to ask about an outstanding payment of $40,000, according to court documents.

In a final judgment issued in March, Hall County Superior Court Judge Bonnie Chessher Oliver noted that Walker failed to show up in court for a hearing on the damages that should be awarded to the company.

Oliver found that Makita sustained $1,034,824.74 in damages from the thefts and the cost of a subsequent audit.

Walker went to work for Gainesville wheel manufacturer Hayes Lemmerz after leaving Makita, according to the lawsuit. A spokeswoman with Hayes Lemmerz said Wednesday that Walker left the company in May 2007 for "other employment opportunities."

Walker is the fourth woman from Hall County to be indicted on charges related to a large embezzlement case in the past year.

Michelle Sanchez of Flowery Branch was charged in November with embezzling $550,000 from Buford-based Jay Bullock Cos., a real estate developer. Former ZF Industries bookkeeper Charlotte Baghose was indicted in February on charges of stealing $586,000 from the Hall County company. Dianne J. Ray was indicted by a Hall County grand jury last month in connection with the theft of $548,000 from Gastroenterology Associates of Gainesville, where she worked for 25 years as an office manager.



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