A lack of interest by the city to pursue a charge against two women in connection with a scam involving flood-prone Hyde Park led to the offenses being dropped against one and reduced for the other.
Belinda Ann Winfrey, 51, and Leomie Fielding, 68, had been indicted for criminal attempt to commit theft by deception. Winfrey pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of providing a false name or address – a misdemeanor – in Richmond County Superior Court and was sentenced to 12 months’ probation.
Assistant District Attorney Joshua Smith told the judge that the plea negotiation was partly the result of city officials’ disinterest in pursuing a criminal case.
The Augusta Commission voted in 2012 to proceed with a plan to buy about 350 parcels of property in the Hyde Park area, pay relocation costs for residents and build a retention pond for the low-lying area, which has repeatedly flooded. The commission set aside $4.5 million for the project estimated to cost $18 million.
According to the indictment, Winfrey filled out paperwork Feb. 11, 2013, that showed she was renting 2051 Walnut St., a home that Fielding owned in Hyde Park. Smith said Fielding backed up Winfrey’s claim.
The application to the Housing and Community Development office was for $24,000. The money was never paid, however.
In the 1990s, according to reports in The Augusta Chronicle, a nearby junkyard was declared a Superfund site, and a factory cleanup of contamination cost $46 million.