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Former assistant tax collector pleads guilty

By Staff
From staff reports
Aug. 7, 2001
A former assistant tax collector in Newton County will spend two years in prison and repay $20,000 after pleading guilty Monday to embezzling more than $73,000.
Velinda Craven was sentenced to five years in prison. Circuit Court Judge Marcus Gordon ordered Craven to serve two years with three suspended. Gordon also ordered Craven to repay $20,000 over three years after she's released, and fined her $1,500 plus court costs.
Craven was deputy tax collector from February 1996 to April 2000. She was arrested in April by Newton County sheriff's deputies and special agents from State Auditor Phil Bryant's office.
Bryant originally demanded Craven repay $119,127. That total included $73,237 in money stolen, $17,777 in interest and $28,113 in investigative costs.
District Attorney Ken Turner's office handled the case. Turner said Bryant's office played a vital role in the case.
The Craven case comes within a year of two similar arrests involving smaller amounts of money in Lauderdale and Clarke counties.
Cotonya Griffin, a former deputy Circuit Court clerk in Lauderdale County, was arrested in July 2000. She was charged with embezzlement after a sting operation conducted by investigators from the state auditor's office and sheriff's deputies. The amount of money involved was under $2,000.
Griffin pleaded guilty and received a suspended sentence; her plea agreement included repayment of the stolen money.
In June of this year, a Clarke County jury found former Justice Court clerk Lynn Fagan guilty of embezzling $1,200 between 1997 and 1999. Fagan's sentencing hearing is scheduled for Aug. 23.

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