Originally created 01/27/01

$40,000 bond set in theft



The city employee accused of stealing more than $121,000 from the local government was granted bond Friday.

Stephanie Womack, 33, had been previously free on bond from Sept. 14 until Jan. 16, when she was named in a 70-count criminal indictment that accuses her of using her position in the Office of the Tax Commissioner's motor vehicle tag department to steal city funds.

Initially, Ms. Womack only faced five theft charges and was freed on a $30,000 bond. With the additional charges listed in the Richmond County Superior Court indictment, however, she was arrested again this month.

On Friday, District Attorney Danny Craig asked Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet to deny bond, arguing Ms. Womack might frustrate the ongoing investigation. A civil forfeiture action will be filed to try to collect at least some of the funds stolen from the tax department, Mr. Craig said.

But defense attorney Brendan Fleming argued anyone who does not face capital crimes, like Ms. Womack, is entitled to bond consideration. Ms. Womack had been free on a $30,000 bond for several months without incident, he said.

As ordered in September, Ms. Womack has surrendered her passport, remained in Augusta and refrained from contacting any potential witnesses, Mr. Fleming said. He asked Judge Overstreet to reinstate her bond.

Because of the additional charges, Judge Overstreet said, he set Ms. Womack's bond at $40,000. She still had not posted bond by Friday evening.

Ms. Womack is accused of taking more than $121,000 between Nov. 15, 1998, and Sept. 14, 2000, at the tax office, where she had access to computer entries for payments of ad valorem taxes and tag fees and access to the safe where cash was stored.

The indictment accuses her of running a scheme to falsify computer data to make it appear that numerous residents were exempt from paying the ad valorem taxes and only paid the $20 tag or decal fee, and then took the difference in cash for herself.

She faces 59 counts of theft by taking, five counts of false statements and writings, four counts of computer theft, one count of income tax evasion and one count of violating the state's Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.