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Former Oconee Co. HR director pleads guilty to stealing $118k from taxpayers

Sherry Turner-Seila (Photo/Oconee Enterprise)

By Joe Johnson

A former human resources director for Oconee County has admitted to stealing over $118,000 in taxpayer money in a complicated paycheck scheme, U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Charles Peeler announced Monday afternoon.

Sherry Turner-Seila, 52, formerly a former Watkinsville resident who now lives in Panama City Beach, Fla., entered a guilty plea today to one count of aggravated identity theft before U.S. District Judge C. Ashley Royal, according to Peeler.

As part of a negotiated plea, she faces a mandatory two years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release. In addition, the plea agreement states that both parties agree the defendant owes $118,451.80 in restitution to Oconee County.

A sentencing date had yet to be scheduled.

Peeler said that as director of Human Resources for Oconee County, Turner-Seila was one of a few employees with access to the county’s payroll system, which transferred funds directly from the county bank account to the bank accounts of county employees.

From July 6, 2016 to July 5, 2019, Turner-Seila concocted a scheme where she would use that access to temporarily change a former employee’s direct-deposit information to her own personal bank account’s information, Peeler said. In all, Turner-Seila stole $118,451.80.

“The defendant used her position and access to systematically steal money from Oconee County taxpayers—a deception she kept up over many years,” Peeler said. “Theft of the public trust is a serious offense, and our office will prosecute those who use their positions of power for illegal gains,”

The federal prosecutor said the case was investigated by the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI for.

“This was a methodical plan by Turner-Seila to knowingly steal money from the tax payers of Oconee County,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of FBI Atlanta. “Public corruption is a priority for the FBI and we continue to work with our local and federal partners to protect our citizens against officials who abuse their positions of trust.”

Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry said, “We are pleased with the swift work by the U.S. Attorney’s office and FBI. This case was a serious matter to many county employees and their families. We are very pleased with the guilty plea.”

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