Originally created 06/29/01

GBI looks into thefts by police



SAVVANAH - The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations that a former Commerce police chief diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and other payments to himself.

George Grimes, 55, served 14 years as police chief in the Jackson County town before his death June 1 of a heart attack. He is suspected of diverting money by taking envelopes containing cash payments that should have been sent to City Hall, according to Capt. Aubrey Pittman, acting Commerce police chief.

Authorities suspect that Chief Grimes embezzled the sum during the past few years.

"He was highly thought of in the police industry," Capt. Pittman said. "It shocked everybody."

Envelopes containing the receipts for cash payments made to the police department for tickets, fines and bond forfeitures were discovered in Chief Grimes' apartment, vehicle and office shortly after his death, according to Bill Malueg, the agent in charge of the Athens GBI office.

Because Chief Grimes is dead, no charges will be filed, Agent Malueg said. But, he added, investigators will complete an audit to determine the amount of money that is missing.

Agent Malueg said he expects the investigation to be complete within a matter of weeks.

"It's going to be an astonishing amount of money," Agent Malueg said. "No one suspected it."

Authorities estimate that the total could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Capt. Pittman said he and another investigator discovered some envelopes in the chief's desk drawer while securing personal items for Chief Grimes' family after his death.

Capt. Pittman said the Commerce Police Department is taking applications for Chief Grimes' position. The department would like the city council to select a new chief by the end of August, he said.