Officials: Plez Hardin set to take plea deal before his suicide

Officials: Plez Hardin set to take plea deal before his suicide
Former D. A. Plez Hardin (Source: WALB)

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - Officials say they have proof that former Southwestern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Plez Hardin had been stealing public money.

In a media conference on Wednesday, acting Sumter County DA Lewis Lamb confirmed that there is evidence that Hardin had been taking money from the office account.

Hardin was scheduled to take a plea deal for fraudulent tax returns the day after he committed suicide.

Lamb reported there had been plea negotiations discussed prior to that meeting and Hardin was set to take a plea deal on one count of filing a fraudulent tax return on the Monday before he took his own life.

Lamb said it is believed that Hardin had been taking money since he took office in January of 2009 leading up to this last month.

Prosecutors can't confirm the exact amount of funds that are missing but estimate it is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range. The DA's office does not know the specifics of where the money came from,  but just that it came from the office's bank account.

However, they can say that grant funds were not affected by this because they never came through the office account.

Sumter County Sheriff  Pete Smith said he has full confidence in acting District Attorney Lewis Lamb and that he is doing the right thing going forward with the audit.

"If you do wrong long enough you're going to get caught. I don't care who you are it makes no difference," said Smith.

They also want to be clear that Hardin was the only one under this federal investigation, not the District Attorney's office.

The DA's office confirmed that none of the cases in the Southwestern Judicial Circuit will have to be retried, including those in Lee, Sumter, and Stewart Counties.

Investigators believe that Hardin was working alone to take these funds and at this time no one else is being investigated.

"I don't have any reason to believe that anybody else was involved in any way or profited from or knowingly profited from anything that happened," said Lamb.

All six counties in the Southwestern Judicial Circuit will undergo an independent financial audit.

Those results will then be turned over to state investigators.

It's not clear if any of the money taken can be recovered.

Governor Deal has opened nominations to appoint an interim District Attorney, that will serve out the rest of the term.

The deadline for nominations is April 30.

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