Linda Schrenko shares new details in candid interview

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Her personal life went public in a federal fraud trial in Atlanta.

Linda Schrenko ended up pleading guilty to helping steal money, meant for Georgia's schools for the deaf and honors students, and funneling it into her campaign for governor.

But in the end, she turned the tables on the man she says kept her in the dark about the scheme until it was too late.

In an exclusive interview, Linda Schrenko shares with News 12's Laurie Ott details you won't hear anywhere else.

"Utter stupidity. Merle had been my friend for years and years and years, and I thought he was my biggest protector."

Ms. Schrenko says when auditors started investigating more than $600,000 she'd spent on services for Georgia schoolchildren that were never delivered, she went to her deputy superintendents at the Department of Education.

"When I got the questions, I went to Merle Temple and Miller Finley and asked them, 'Why am I getting these questions? I don't know how to answer this.' They said, 'Don't worry about it; we filled the contracts out for you'."

Ms. Schrenko says she learned later, even as late as during the trial, how the money had ended up in her campaign for governor...and the role State House Rep. Sue Burmeister had played.

"I didn't know until the trial, the money she gave was not her own," Ms. Schrenko said. "I learned things at the trial."

And it was also during the trial, on the day of her guilty plea, that prosecutors revealed Ms. Schrenko had turned the tables on Mr. Temple.

Investigators found that Temple continued to have contact with Schrenko well after he'd agreed to testify against her.

It was during one of those meetings, at the urging of her attorney, that Ms. Schrenko taped their conversation.

"He did say things like, 'If they do put me in jail, I'll be running the place in two weeks'," Schrenko recalls. "If they put me in, I'll be quiet for two weeks, trying to think what to do."

And it will be in prison that Ms. Schrenko says she'll finally be able to step out of the spotlight.

"I can do the time and pay the restitution and can get out a free woman and have a private life. No more public figure," she said. "It's the last you'll hear from Linda Schrenko."

So after eight years in office, the last three under public scrutiny because of this scheme, Linda Schrenko wants to return to private life.

Some may think it strange that Ms. Schrenko agreed to speak with me, but I think our conversation was very cordial--and you have to hand it to her, she shared details with me she hasn't shared with anyone else.

She even invited me to come visit her in prison.