January 9, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---A Richmond County clerk of court has found herself on the wrong side of the law.
29-year-old Mandy Rhodes was arrested earlier today, accused of stealing more than $21,000 from civil magistrate court.
It's a theft investigation News 12 first told you about last summer.
It all began six months ago with a few missing receipts. Investigators say as the court followed the paper trail, that led to one of their own.
Thousands of dollars at the Richmond County magistrate's office was unaccounted for. Now one of their own deputy clerks is facing charges.
29-year-old Mandy Rhodes was arrested and accused of stealing more than $21,000 from the court from January 2005 to June 2006.
It's a case Richmond County investigator Michael McDaniel has worked on for months.
"Back in June of '06, some cash register receipts were missing and were to be attached to some handwritten receipts," Inv. McDaniel explained.
An internal audit confirmed money was missing--and lots of it.
Rhodes was placed on administrative leave, and for six months the court and the sheriff's office worked to put the pieces together, trying to figure out how and when it disappeared.
"There was actually a couple of different methods that was used to take the money," Inv. McDaniel told News 12.
McDaniel says defendants would come to court to pay fines for civil claims including bad checks and disorderly conduct. At times, Rhodes would double charge defendants who came to pay their fines, paying half to the court and pocketing the rest.
Other times, he says Rhodes would ring up the fine, clear it from the defendant's record, and later void the charge and pocket the money.
"Once the money was received, it was then taken from Civil Magistrate Court, making them the victim," Inv. McDaniel said.
A court that decides right and wrong every day has learned its own lesson.
"It hasn't affected the public, it's affected civil magistrate court," Inv. McDaniel said. "So they will be addressing their procedures and readdressing their protocols for taking money."
Rhodes worked for the court for nine years. Neighbors say her husband works two jobs, and Rhodes is nine months pregnant with the couple's first child.
Her case has been turned over to the district attorney, and if she's indicted, she faces a charge of racketeering.
Inv. McDaniel says they have checked and double checked the records and found even though Rhodes was allegedly pocketing the money, she was crediting the defendants for having paid their fines, so no one should owe the court any money.