No jail time in Fulton employee’s credit card scheme

The only Fulton County employee who faced criminal charges in a scheme that allegedly siphoned $183,000 in taxpayer funds into four workers’ pockets won’t serve jail time and no others will be prosecuted.

The case sparked allegations of a high-level cover-up and malfeasance within the county government from the lowest levels to the top.

“There was insufficient evidence to support criminal prosecution against any other parties initially implicated in this matter,” District Attorney Paul Howard said in a written statement. “As such, we do not intend to pursue additional charges.”

Nicola Hosier, 40, a former financial systems supervisor in the Human Services Department, pleaded guilty Monday to a 113-count indictment for using her county-issued credit card to buy linens, chairs, place settings, silverware and dishes for her private event planning business, Exquisite Events Atlanta LLC.

Though prosecutors recommended she serve five years in prison and five years on probation, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Alford Dempsey sentenced her to two years of home confinement and eight years on probation. She must also pay $136,000 in restitution.

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The county’s former internal investigator, Maria Colon, discovered the scheme but was later demoted with a pay cut. Her supervisor, former Deputy County Manager Gwen Warren, was fired.

Colon reported that $183,194 in county funds had been diverted to four county employees and their company, Exquisite Events. Wal-Mart gift cards charged to the county, she reported, were used to buy furniture, bedding, appliances, video games and champagne flutes that were delivered to Hosier and others at home.

Warren and Colon filed a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging that former County Manager Zachary Williams, under pressure from some county commissioners including Emma Darnell, ordered them to hold off on handing over evidence of the theft to the DA’s office until after 2010 elections because “it could get too political.”

Williams, now DeKalb County’s chief operating officer, denied that, saying the firing and demotion were for other reasons he could not disclose.

The whistle-blower lawsuit has been stalled by appeals and is pending before the Georgia Supreme Court. Attorney A. Lee Parks, who represents Colon and Warren, said Hosier’s light sentence points to a double standard in how white collar criminals and petty thieves get treated by the justice system.

“There were other people that should have been prosecuted,” Parks said. “This was a scheme that went right up to the top and no one has looked into that.”

Hosier’s attorney did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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