Crime & Public Safety

A Jasper Co. finance employee embezzled nearly $275,000. Now she’s headed to prison

A former Jasper County employee who embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars is headed to prison.

Denise Smith, of Kennsaw, Georgia, pleaded guilty Friday to embezzling $274,175 while working as a financial analyst for the county, the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office said in a release. Smith was sentenced by Judge Carmen Mullen to eight years in prison and must repay the money.

“As a county employee, this defendant violated and abused the public’s trust for her own personal gain,” prosecutor Francine Norz said in a statement. “This was not a one-time thing.”

Smith, 57, created fraudulent invoices from 2012 to 2017 for payments transferred and withdrawn from a personal account, prosecutors said. After Smith retired and stayed on part time to train her replacement, county officials discovered invoices for a bogus landscaping company for work that was never done.

Smith, who previously lived in Ridgeland, was arrested in August 2018. According to the arrest warrant, she wrote invoices for Ken’s Tree Service — which doesn’t exist — and had the county treasurer’s office deposit the money in a South State Bank account.

Bank surveillance video showed Smith withdrawing the money, the warrant said.