Realty manager arrested for embezzlement - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Realty manager arrested for embezzlement

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

SYLVESTER, GA (WALB) - A well-known volunteer leader in Worth County is arrested for theft, charged with embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a former mayor's realty business.

The GBI is still investigating to see if the woman may have stolen money from charity and civic organizations she volunteered with.

34-year-old Betty Dorsey was arrested August 19th and charged with one count of theft of more than $500, but that dollar amount is just a fraction of the money Dorsey is suspected of stealing. Victims say she took more than $300,000.

Dorsey was the office manager for Thomas Lawhorne Realty for more than 10 years-- the trusted person running the rental business for former Mayor Lawhorne with very little oversight. He had faith in her, even letting her live free in one of his homes.

But about one year ago Lawhorne said it became apparent that money was missing, and he says Dorsey admitted taking a small amount. But he said soon it became obvious that a lot of money was missing, and he called in law enforcement.

"She had a couple of company credit cards that she was using, and buying a lot of stuff for her own use and her own personal gain. Of course since she was the bookkeeper she was able to write checks and pay those credit card bills, unknown to the Lawhornes," said Special Agent Mike Lewis.

They estimate Dorsey embezzled more than $300,000 to pay for a lavish lifestyle.

"Paying for family trips, furniture, pretty much just living off the money," Lewis said.

One of the big tip offs that something was wrong, Dorsey's $1,200 a month company cell phone bills. Dorsey's arrest is the talk of the town in Sylvester, because she is well known. She has been a volunteer firefighter for more than one year, and has also volunteered with the town's Peanut Festival, and Relay for Life.

Now people in the community wonder if money is missing from those events and charities Dorsey worked with. The GBI is not saying much.

 "Well, we are still investigating," Lewis said.

Former Mayor Lawhorne kept Dorsey on the job even after he learned about the theft, finally firing her August 12th. She was arrested one week later. The GBI says the investigation has been going on for months, and continues to widen through the other organizations she was involved with.

We talked with several people who know Dorsey and all said they had noticed she drove expensive cars and wore nice clothes, but few had ever wondered how she paid for them.

The Lawhornes say they don't have much hope they will recover any of the money.

Dorsey was released on bond the day she was arrested.

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