Crime & Courts

Georgia man pleads guilty in scheme that cost Sedgwick County $566,000

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A Georgia man pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges he was part of an e-mail scheme that cost Sedgwick County more than $566,000, authorities said.

George S. James, 49, of Brookhaven, Ga., pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said in a statement.

In his plea, James admitted that on Oct. 7, Sedgwick County sent approximately $566,088 to his bank account at a Wells Fargo bank in Georgia. James transferred part of the money he received from Sedgwick County to a bank account in Shanghai, China, and part of the money to an account at Deutsche Bank in Bremen, Germany. James also spent some of the money.

James denied in the plea that the fraud scheme was his idea. He said that on Sept. 23, he was contacted by a person identified in court records as A.H., who asked to deposit some money into James’ account at Wells Fargo.

James said he knew A.H. was engaged in fraud, but he denied knowing that Sedgwick County was the victim.

In his plea, James said it was A.H. – or someone working with A.H. – who sent an e-mail to Sedgwick County on Sept. 23 purporting to be from Cornejo and Sons LLC and requesting the county send future payments to a new account number at Wells Fargo.

Two weeks later, the county sent $566,088 to James’ account at Wells Fargo. The county learned later that Cornejo did not request the change of account and did not receive the payment.

Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 21. James faces a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

County officials said in April that most of the money lost in the scam had not been recovered.

Stan Finger: 316-268-6437, @StanFinger

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