Hancock County Probate Judge pleads guilty to stealing county funds

SPARTA, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Probate Judge for Hancock County pleaded guilty in federal court to stealing county funds.

According to U.S. Attorney Michael Moore, Marva Rice entered a guilty plea on Thursday to two counts of theft of federal funds from Hancock County, which receives federal funds.

The plea agreement states, Rice was responsible for collecting fines and fees and depositing those funds into the Probate Court bank account. According to an investigation by the FBI in 2012, authorities say Rice did not deposit $43,864.70 into the account. In 2013, after the FBI conducted its investigation, authorities say Rice used Hancock County funds to pay for her own personal legal fees, which totaled $20,000.

“Election to public office is a sign of trust by the voters and the public in the integrity and honesty of those they choose to govern them. Theft of funds entrusted to you as an elected public official is not only a violation of that trust but erodes the faith of the people in government and elected officials generally,” Moore said in a statement. “To steal further funds to defend yourself when caught is simply reprehensible.”

Rice faces a maximum sentence of up to ten years in prison, a fine up to $250,000, and up to three years of supervised release.

“Today’s guilty plea will begin the process of holding Hancock County Probate Judge Rice responsible for her criminal actions involving the embezzlement of public funds,” J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Atlanta Field Office said in a statement. “The FBI will continue to aggressively purse any and all allegations of similar such conduct by public officials attempting to divert public funds to their own bank accounts.”

Sentencing will take place in approximately 60 days.

Categories: Hancock County, Local News

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