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Georgia Accountant Convicted of Fraud Against Small Businesses

A Putnam County woman who admitted to stealing $156,734.76 from three small businesses where she worked as a part-time accountant was sentenced to prison and forced to pay restitution to the victims.

After pleading guilty to one count of bank fraud, U.S. District Judge Tilman E. “Tripp” Self III imposed a 24-month prison term followed by four years of supervised release on Alicia Merritt, 48, of Eatonton.

Additionally, Merritt was sentenced to pay the victims $146,660.66 in reparation. In the federal system, there is no parole.

U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary stated in a press statement, “The defendant accepted her guilt and was held accountable for defrauding three small companies in her neighbourhood.”

“Whether a trusted employee takes $100,000 or $1,000,000, fraud eventually affects lives and can have a bad impact on a community, as demonstrated in this instance.

Together with our law enforcement partners, we want to safeguard law-abiding citizens and do everything possible to combat fraud and restore justice.


Keri Farley, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta field office, stated that she hoped the sentence would send a message that the FBI is devoted to making cases like this one a powerful deterrence to the lure of greed.

“Merritt not only deceived the companies she worked for, but she also betrayed the faith they placed in her, and she will be held accountable for both offences.”

The owner of Willow Oaks Landscape uncovered Merritt’s larceny for the first time in February 2020, according to court records.

Merritt served as the bookkeeper for the family-owned firm for a decade, and the owner placed “full” trust in her, delegating payroll, vendor payments, reimbursements, and credit card access to her.

When the company began to lose money, the owner felt that there were other factors at play and did not suspect Merritt.

Nonetheless, between March 2019 and February 2020, Merritt sent checks to suppliers, to herself for reimbursements that did not exist, and cut payroll checks for departed employees and cashed them for herself, totalling $108,068.45. In the same period, Merritt also confessed to charging $5,382.90 in personal costs to the company credit card.

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The Meat Shed and Vape on the Lake, two local Eatonton businesses, also employed Merritt on a part-time basis as a financial manager.

For the businesses, Merritt was entrusted with processing tax payments to the Georgia Department of Revenue and IRS.

Early in 2019, Merritt devised a method in which she convinced the owner that she could better handle his tax payments if he sent her checks for the amount owed and she paid the tax to the applicable revenue agency.

Late in 2019, Merritt’s demands intensified, and she demanded that the owner make repeated big payments to meet alleged tax payment deadlines, while she kept the money for herself and did not pay the required taxes. Merritt stole a minimum of $33,209.31 from these businesses.

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