Carter, represented by attorney Joel Dillard of Birmingham, pleaded not guilty to charges of bank fraud and money laundering, accused of stealing $951,787.06 from SouthFirst Bank in Sylacauga, where she worked. She has entered a plea agreement pleading guilty to both charges, with prosecutors agreeing to reduce the offense level and to recommend a sentence at the low end of the advisory guidelines.
Maximum punishment on the bank fraud charge is 30 years imprisonment plus $1 million in fines; the money laundering charge could result in a 20-year sentence and $500,000 fine.
The plea agreement stipulates that between June 2004 and March 2013, Carter embezzled money by transferring it into savings accounts in her daughter’s name, then having her daughter withdraw the money for her. The transfers were made by recording journal entries from general ledger accounts and by skimming money from checks made payable to SouthFirst. Carter also made electronic transfers from the bank’s operating expense account to pay bills on her own behalf or on behalf of her relatives. Some of those transfers went to the Alabama Department of Revenue, Alabama Power, AT&T, Capital One, Department of Education Student Loans, Hoovers Tax, HSBC Card Services, One Main Financial, Santander, Shelby Tax Filing and T-Mobile.
As part of the agreement, Carter agreed to pay restitution of $951,787.06 to SouthFirst, to serve some prison time and to pay a fine in accordance with the sentencing guidelines. And, she noted that she understood that the court is not bound by the plea agreement in making its sentencing decision.
Carter’s not guilty plea Thursday is basically a procedural requirement to trigger the legal protections she is entitled to in court. She is expected to change her plea to guilty later. Future court appearances are expected to include a consent docket and a sentencing hearing.
She is free on an unsecured $5,000 bond, and until the court allows her to do so, she may not possess a gun, move her residence or apply for credit.
Carter was elected to represent Childersburg’s Ward C in 2008, and was re-elected last year. Her lawyer said she does not plan to resign her seat on the City Council just now.
“She was elected to represent her constituents,” Dillard said. “She’s done a great job for the city. She is permitted to serve in the absence of a conviction, and does not intend to resign now because these allegations are not related to her elected office.”
Carter last attended a council meeting on Oct. 1, and has been absent from a regular meeting and a called meeting since that time.
A council member who misses all meetings during a 90-day period is removed from office according to Alabama Code section 11-40-25, said Ken Smith, executive director of the Alabama League of Municipalities.
Conn appeared in court with attorney Clayton Tartt of Birmingham and entered his not guilty plea. He is free on a $20,000 unsecured bond, and also is restricted from possessing a gun, moving his residence or applying for credit.
Conn was indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury of padding invoices to the tune of $152,712 over the course of his company’s contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority.
According to the indictment, Conn was owner and administrative manager of Conn Equipment Rental Company Inc. doing business as Vegetation Management Services LLC when the company contracted with TVA to clear trees and brush from power lines and other TVA property. The indictment looks at a period of February 2009 through October 2009 and alleges Conn submitted false invoices by inflating the hours that equipment was actually being used. During that period, Conn was paid via wire transfers totaling $284,084.56, and prosecutors allege $34,446 of that was fraudulent due to inflated billing. Prosecutors seek forfeiture of $284,084.56.
Greene granted a motion prosecutors had filed in Conn’s case for a protective order concerning sensitive discovery material.
According to the motion, the case includes a large quantity of personal identifying information, including bank account numbers, a Social Security number and income tax information, and much of that information exists in electronic format.
While such information is usually redacted before providing discovery materials to the defense, the motion allows the prosecution to provide the discovery materials without redacting the information.
The motion says the information “may be relevant to the defendants’ preparation of their cases. Additionally, the volume and the electronic nature of the material render impractical the redaction of PII from the discovery in this case.”
The motion requires the defense counsel to use the information only as necessary to prepare and present Conn’s defense, not to leave such information in the control or custody of Conn or anybody who is not a professional member of the defense team, and to collect and return to the government all paper and electronic copies of the materials at the end of the trial.
Discovery would be the next step in Conn’s case, and a trial date has not yet been set.
Tartt would not comment on Conn’s case.