Federal prosecutors omitted one key detail Tuesday when they charged DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer with a years-long fraud scheme:
The name of the adviser they said was her partner in crime, submitting false invoices to the county for more than $78,000 and then funneling most of the money to Boyer’s bank account.
But an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation that began months ago found that only one consultant received those kinds of payments from Boyer.
It’s Marion Rooks Boynton, a 72-year-old evangelist who ran unsuccessfully for DeKalb County offices 30 years ago. In recent weeks, the AJC had been asking Boyer for proof of the work Boynton had performed.
She could produce none.
Tuesday afternoon, Boyer told a federal magistrate judge she will plead guilty to a mail fraud charge in connection with that scheme. Boynton has not been charged.
Boyer also plans to plead guilty to another scheme first revealed in the AJC in March: using her county purchasing card to pay for personal expenses.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said she will seek a prison sentence for Boyer.
Boyer was “using the funds of the county like her own personal piggy bank,” Yates said outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta.
The AJC found evidence linking Boynton to the wire fraud scheme as it examined more than six years’ worth of payments that DeKalb County commissioners had approved to suppliers, consultants and temporary workers.
Boynton was the highest-paid consultant listed, receiving more than $83,000. Invoices that Boynton submitted to Boyer stated he was consulting on and researching such issues as transportation, Grady hospital and MARTA’s legislative oversight committee. His invoice letterhead boasted “timely reports from our state’s capitol.”
When Boyer’s office entered a check request into the county’s computer system during the 2010 session of the Georgia General Assembly, it typed, “Lobbying & Legislative Analysis.”
But when the AJC in recent months asked Boyer for any reports, memos, correspondence or research materials from Boynton, she produced none. Nor could she provide a contract with him or other evidence of the scope of work she commissioned him to perform. Boynton has never been a registered lobbyist, according to the state ethics office, and lawmakers and lobbyists working for DeKalb from 2009 to 2011 said they’d never heard of Boynton.
In a court filing Tuesday morning, federal prosecutors said the invoices were false.
“In fact, adviser performed no services for Boyer, constituents of District 1, or DeKalb County,” the document alleges.
Boyer has refused all AJC interview requests.
Boynton could not be reached for comment. For the past two months, the AJC has tried to contact him through relatives, neighbors and his nonprofit organization, Rooks Boynton Ministries.
He was said to be out of the country and did not respond to messages.
Prosecutors said in their court filing Tuesday that the adviser turned over to Boyer about 75 percent of the DeKalb County money he received.
Boyer used the money for such things at purchases at hotels and high-end department stores, the document alleges.
The court filing says the adviser retained the other 25 percent of the proceeds from the scheme.
Boynton is a former University of Georgia football player who ran unsuccessfully for DeKalb County offices in 1980 and 1984, and then shifted his focus to infusing Christianity into local governments. For several years he owned a home in Clarkston, but for part of the time Boyer was paying him, he claimed residence in a three-story luxury home on the beach of St. Simons Island. He listed that address in voting records.
The federal investigation into Boyer’s spending began after the AJC reported that the commissioner had used her county Visa card to pay for thousands of dollars in personal expenses, including airline tickets, a ski resort vacation, rental cars and cellphone bills. She repaid the county for some of the purchases days, weeks or months later, essentially using the card for short-term loans. But she didn’t repay about $8,000 in expenses until after the AJC flagged them in its investigation.
The wire fraud charge stems from those purchases. Yates charged that from about October 2010 to about February of this year, Boyer authorized credit card electronic payments in a scheme to defraud the county.
In a court filing, Yates said that Boyer in 2010 had signed an agreement not to use the card for personal purchases, yet she made more than 50 for herself and her family.
The U.S. Marshals Office fingerprinted and photographed Boyer at the courthouse Tuesday before she was released on her own recognizance. She is to be arraigned within the next 10 days.