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Hyde Park theft attempt case ends with dismissed, reduced charges

Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 6:23 PM
Last updated 10:11 PM
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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.

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dichotomy 02/25/14 - 08:00 am
And THERE is why people try

And THERE is why people try this crap. They know the system will not even try to punish them for criminal fraud against the taxpayer unless they happen to get away with a few $million.....and then they will only get a few months. Unless we return to the days when a criminal act gets punished FIRST TIME....EVERY TIME we will never clean up this mess our liberal thinkers and lazy prosecutors and judges have created. People do crime because CRIME PAYS and even if you get caught NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO YOU.

Ms. Winfrey and Ms. Fielding should have disappeared from their neighborhoods for about 5 years each and nobody in their circle of friends and family would ever have tried something like this because they would have all known crime gets punished. Now they know it doesn't cost anything to give it a try.

Little Lamb
Little Lamb 02/25/14 - 08:31 am
City Disinterest

Though Fred (What, me worry?) Russell is gone, his legacy of disinterest lives on. Winfrey and Fielding got caught attempting to defraud city taxpayers, and they get away with it because of the culture of disinterest that Russell maintained.

Just think, though, of how many did not get caught. They are laughing all the way to the bank.

jimmymac 02/25/14 - 09:12 am

Any wonder why the legal system is in such a mess. Elected officials, judges and prosecutors all too lazy to do the jobs they're paid to do. Criminals know this and act with impunity.

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