A MARTA official has been arrested and charged with stealing nearly $100,000 from the agency by billing it for training that employees never received.
Director of Technology and Support Services Diane Hamilton allegedly submitted false invoices to MARTA for training that supposedly was done by two companies, documents obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News show. The documents indicate she had connections to both companies.
Hamilton, 48, was arrested Aug. 6 and charged with theft and other crimes. A MARTA police report says she admitted to wrongdoing when questioned by detectives.
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Hamilton is the third MARTA official to be charged with bilking the agency in the last year and a half. In January, former Senior Director of Operations Joseph Erves was sentenced to two years and nine months in federal prison for stealing more than $500,000 through false invoices. Last month, Jhonnita L. Williams, an assistant to Erves, was charged in the same scheme.
In a written statement, MARTA spokeswoman Stephany Fisher said Hamilton was arrested “after an internal investigation uncovered illegal activity by an employee who was immediately terminated.
“MARTA has zero tolerance for fraud and abuse and is working to ensure this individual pays full restitution and is prosecuted to the maximum extent of the law,” Fisher said.
According to a MARTA police report, the agency’s accounting department reported several suspicious invoices on June 21. The invoices showed thousands of dollars paid to Dylron Enterprises and MDH Innovative Solutions to provide a variety of training.
Numerous employees told MARTA detectives they had taken no such training, though they were listed as receiving it. The managers who allegedly requested the training said their signatures were forged, and they had never heard of the companies.
Detectives later determined that Hamilton was “directly associated” with both companies. Corporate records filed with the Secretary of State’s Office list Hamilton is the organizer of Dylron Enterprises. The company’s address is identical to Hamilton’s.
The detectives found MARTA had paid the two companies a combined $99,141 between March 2017 and July 2018.
When questioned about the invoices on Aug. 1, Hamilton “immediately started admitting and confessing” to creating false invoices and training requests.
Hamilton was charged in Fulton County Superior court with 13 counts of theft by deception, two counts of criminal attempt to commit theft by deception and one count of computer forgery.
The charges against Hamilton mirror those against Erves and Williams.
Erves orchestrated a false invoice scheme that led MARTA to pay nearly $523,000 for maintenance work that was never performed from 2010 to 2016. Federal prosecutors said three vendors funneled most of the money into Eves’ personal bank accounts. In addition to serving 33 months in prison, Erves also must repay all the money to MARTA.
Williams was charged with participating in Erves’ scheme. She faces charges of conspiratorial and substantive federal program theft, mail fraud and making a false statement on a loan application. She has pleaded “not guilty.”
Another man, Ferrell Williams of Cincinnati, pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme earlier this year. He owned one of the businesses that received MARTA money and was romantically involved with Jhonnita Williams.
Earlier this month, a federal judge sentenced him to eight months in prison and three years of supervised release. Williams also must pay MARTA $41,539 in restitution.
Channel 2 Action News reporter Richard Belcher contributed to this report