Government witness testifies Schrenko filled in check payee line

By: Laurie Ott
By: Laurie Ott

Clarification: At no point was Shawn Neal a dental hygienist, and at no point did Shawn Neal claim to be a dental hygienist.

The fraud trial for former state school superintendent Linda Schrenko continues in Atlanta.

We found out Monday afternoon how Schrenko and Merle Temple were involved in getting those $590 checks into Schrenko's gubernatorial campaign.

The government called Shawn Neal to the stand today.

Neal testified today she was the office manager at the Wheeler Road dental office of Dr. Katherine Cooper, Linda Schrenko's daughter, in the summer of 2002, when Schrenko and Temple came into the office.

Neal testified Linda Schrenko herself said she needed some people to sign some checks for her campaign. Neal testified Schrenko told her to endorse the backs of those $590 checks, as if Neal worked for Schrenko.

Neal said she not only endorsed checks written out to her, but also those written out for her husband, Jason Neal. Neal said she signed the backs of the checks, but said she never filled her or her husband's name in on the payee line.

Neal testified Schrenko told her it was okay and slid the checks across the desk for Neal to endorse.

Neal also said Kristi Secord and Becky Russell endorsed checks made out to them. Both women work in Dr. Cooper's office. She added that she knew Schrenko herself filled out at least one check's payee line, because Schrenko had misspelled Becky Russell's name--spelling the last name with one "L".

Remember this is money that prosecutors say came from federal education money given to an Atlanta computer company.

On cross-examination, Pete Theodocian, Schrenko's attorney, asked Neal if Schrenko or Dr. Cooper ever asked her to lie, and she said "No." When he asked, "Do you think a lot of Linda Schrenko," she replied, "I did."

Neal also said she was told she'd be taking part in a focus group, that someone else would be calling later to ask her some questions...as if it were a survey.

She also said she never got that survey call.

Campaign treasurer Harry Dolnick took the stand after Neal, and the day finished with former campaign manager Richard Leonard testifying for the prosecution.

The government showed exhibits demonstrating that Schrenko's campaign was broke until this federal education money started allegedly filtering back.

That's when the government says a second "media account" was opened up to help the campaign make large buys of television time for campaign ads.

Each witness can take awhile.

They have to be questioned by the prosecutor, then cross-examined by each of the three co-defendant's lawyers.

Then, the government can redirect and question that same person again.

There are still several notable witnesses to go, including: Sue Burmeister, Richard Leonard, Tim Shelnut, Merle Temple, and Linda Schrenko herself.

The government was worried one of Linda Schrenko's co-defendants would try to flee the country. Stephan Botes told News 12 this morning that the idea was "ridiculous".


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