Macon - In an ongoing investigation into the Alapaha Judicial Circuit, the Clinch County Clerk of Court has pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud.
The court ordered Daniel Leccese to pay restitution of $73,286.00 to the community.
Court records say in July of 1992, Leccese and five other co-conspirators created an account illegally collecting a 15 dollar fee from misdemeanor defendants.
The account was a way to compensate county employees for the supervision and management of those defendants.
The Clinch County Commission voted in 2001 to hire a private probation company to supervise the cases and discontinue the account but fees kept being collected, although reduced to 10 dollars per misdemeanor defendant.
The account was kept off the books and finally brought to light by the county commission in January of 2007.
An audit done by Valdosta Accountant Paul Nichols says Leccese collected $17,705.00, Melinda Davis collected $24,655.00, Sissy Suggs collected $20,845.00, Libby Brown collected $3,650.00 and Sherry Booth $400.00.
All were approved and signed by Alapaha Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Brooks Blitch.
The mail fraud charges stem from the conspiracy of Leccese and others to use the United States Postal Service to send court notices to defendants, and receive payments, including the unauthorized fees from misdemeanor defendants in Clinch County.
According to the Federal Court order Friday, if other county employees plea guilty or are convicted, they will also have to help pay that money back.