Sherry Turner-Seila, the former Human Resources director for Oconee County, entered a guilty plea
Monday, Aug. 17 to one count aggravated identity theft before U.S. District Judge Ashley Royal.
The former employee “has admitted to stealing taxpayer money in a complicated paycheck scheme,” said United States Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Charles Peeler.
The total amount stolen over the course of three years is $118,451.80.
Turner-Seila, 52, now a resident of Panama City Beach, Florida, began working for the Oconee County Human Resources department in July 2015. She was promoted to acting HR director in February 2019 and permanent HR director in July 2019.
She resigned July 16, 2019, one day after the county discovered a discrepancy in payroll accounts.
As HR director, Turner-Seila used her access to the county’s payroll system to change employees’ direct deposit information to her own personal bank account.
“She would alter the separation date of former employees to allow for payroll transfers to be disbursed to her personal bank account,” according to an initial press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Middle District of Georgia. “She would then delete the direct deposit information linked to her personal bank account from the system as soon as the unauthorized transfer occurred and then would add the correct separation date for that employee back to the system.”
A second press release stated that from July 6, 2016 to July 5, 2019, Turner-Seila stole $118,451.80 from Oconee County taxpayers.
“Theft ofthe public trust is a serious offense, and our office will prosecute those who use their positions of power for illegal gains,” said Peeler.
The case was investigated by the FBI and the Oconee County Sherif’s Office.
Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for November.
Turner-Seila faces a mandatory two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a one year supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
“She deeply regrets it, but has never denied it,” said her attorney Mo Wiltshire, who added that psychological trauma contributed to her actions. “She regrets the situation. She wishes she could go back and take it all back.”
Wiltshire said Turner-Seila does not wish to comment publicly at this time.
Oconee County Finance Director Wes Geddings, who discovered the error last year, said the Finance Department now manages payroll. The outside auditing firm that the county used before the crime was discovered is no longer the county’s auditor.