The 11th Circuit upholds Judge Clay Land’s ruling in the public larceny case of Willie Demps

COLUMBUS, Georgia (WRBL) — A Columbus man who stole millions of dollars from the office of the Muscogee County chief clerk will not have his sentence reduced, the US Circuit Court’s 11th Circuit said in a statement.

Willie Demps asked the court to overturn the 145-month — more than 12-year — sentence imposed a year ago by US District Court Judge Clay Land.

The federal appeals court upheld Land’s decision, although the judge deviated from sentencing guidelines and ordered Demps to serve an additional sentence.

Demps was 64 when he was convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and two counts of tax evasion.

“Although the district court did not specifically state that it took Demps’s age into account, it was not required to state this specifically,” the order reads. “The court said it took into account the benchmark, the factors and the particular facts of the case. Nothing more had to be done. We cannot say that we are left with the firm conviction that the district court’s judgment was a clear misjudgment.”

The Court of Appeal found that the 24-month upward variance in Land’s sentence was “procedurally reasonable” because Land had explained his reasons for the extra time.

“In the Court’s view, the derogation was necessary to ensure fair punishment for each offence, to take into account the number of victims of its conspiracy and fraud, and to reflect the seriousness of the offense and the need to promote the rule of law,” it said Court of Appeal found. “It is clear from the filing that the court handed down the partially consecutive sentences to ensure that Demps also received a prison sentence for each individual tax offense in addition to the conspiracy to commit bank fraud.” The court also emphasized that the number of victims in this case was actually higher than stated in the PSR because Demps took advantage of friends and family members by including them in the system.”

Demps admitted to stealing checks from the Superior Court and State Court offices, writing those checks for random amounts, usually in the $3,000 to $5,000 range, and then cashing those checks at three local banks to permit.

According to court documents, Demps worked for the Muscogee County Clerk for about 30 years and oversaw cash deposits received by the clerk’s office, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Georgia.

The clerk’s office received monies from fines and convictions, payments often being made in cash. From at least 2010 to 2019, Demps maintained a safe in his office where he kept amounts of cash confiscated by the clerk’s office.

During the business day, this safe was rarely locked, even when Demps was not in his office. Demps (or his designee) was responsible for depositing the cash received from the clerk’s office into an appropriate clerk’s bank account. Records indicate that the clerk’s office received over $5.5 million in cash over the period 2010–2019, but only a single cash deposit of approximately $210 was made into official Columbus accounts in 2019 .

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