ATHENS, Ga. - Three former employees of an Athens poultry processing plant have been arrested and a fourth is being sought in connection with an alleged conspiracy to defraud the company of nearly $100,000.
The suspects are accused of accepting about $94,000 in tuition reimbursement funds from Pilgrim's Pride although they never were enrolled at a college, according to arrest warrants on file in Athens-Clarke County Magistrate Court.
Charged with felony theft by deception are Angela Marie Colquitt, 32, of Hull; Allison Diane Strickland, 37, of Colbert; and Denise Louise Dimas, 30, of Athens.
According to the arrest warrants, the women "claimed to be taking classes at Hamilton University while receiving tuition reimbursement" from the poultry plant, which at the time was owned by ConAgra Foods Inc.
The thefts occurred between January 2002 and November 2003, according to Athens-Clarke police, who investigated the alleged scheme with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
The GBI informed local police of the alleged fraud after a company audit manager, who suspected the women of stealing from the business, contacted the state law enforcement agency.
All three women were arrested last month. Ms. Dimas, the most recent arrest, was taken into custody March 25, according to court documents.
A warrant for the arrest of an unidentified woman was also signed last month.
Only one of the three women, Ms. Colquitt, had hired an attorney as of Thursday afternoon.
Athens attorney Morris Wiltshire said his client committed no crimes while employed by the poultry plant.
"I don't know what kind of evidence the government thinks it has, but the one thing I do know is Angela is an outstanding person," the attorney said. "My client is not a thief. She's a very straightforward, honest person."
Each defendant is free on a $5,600 bond.
The women are scheduled to appear in Magistrate Court on April 12, when a judge will ask them whether they understand the charges and advise them of their rights, including the right to an attorney.
Angela Colquitt, Allison Strickland and Denise Dimas are scheduled to appear in Magistrate Court on April 12 on felony theft by deception charges.