Former Department of Corrections Employee Sentenced to Prison for Racketeering
Former Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) employee Debbie Lynn Wright pleaded guilty in Tattnall County Superior Court on November 1, 2012, to one count of Racketeering (O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4(c)) for her role in a scheme to steal money from the State of Georgia by paying State employees for work they did not perform. Judge Hugh J. McCullough sentenced Wright under the First Offender Act to ten years to serve two in prison and restitution in the amount of $27,500.00. Yesterday, she surrendered herself at the Tattnall County Jail.
Debbie Lynn Wright was a salaried employee of DOC, working as a senior clerk at the Georgia State Prison (GSP) in Reidsville. As senior clerk, Debbie Lynn Wright was also the designated timekeeper responsible for making manual entries into TimeWare for all hourly employees. Her daughter, Christin Lynn Wright, was an hourly employee of the Medical College of Georgia and contracted to work as an administrative assistant at the GSP. Paul Sylvester Thornhill was also an hourly employee of the Medical College of Georgia contracted to work as a licensed practical nurse at the GSP.
Debbie Lynn Wright devised, controlled, implemented and participated in a scheme to defraud the State of Georgia by manually entering fraudulent data into TimeWare that resulted in Thornhill and Christin Lynn Wright being paid for overtime hours that they did not work, or, in Thornhill’s case, receiving double or triple payment for working the same hours. On at least two occasions, Debbie Lynn Wright used documents containing entries she knew to be fraudulent to support her manual entries.
Thornhill and Christin Lynn Wright received stolen property (money) as a result of Debbie Lynn Wright’s fraudulent TimeWare entries. The stolen property was either directly deposited by the State of Georgia into various bank accounts of Christin Lynn Wright and Thornhill or paid by the State via checks cashed or deposited by Christin Lynn Wright and Thornhill. Christin Lynn Wright and Thornhill would then return the money to Debbie Lynn Wright, or would pay bills on her behalf, and then would retain the balance for their own use.
It is estimated that Christin Lynn Wright received approximately $14,000.00 in unearned compensation and Thornhill received at least $129,000.00 in unearned compensation.
All three former employees were initially investigated at the request of the warden of the facility following a whistleblower complaint in December 2009. Their employment was terminated within two weeks of the allegations having first surfaced.
Assistant Attorney Shepard Orlow prosecuted the case on behalf of the State of Georgia. The case was investigated by Special Agent James O’Sullivan of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Will Barnes and Eddie Yates of the Georgia Health Sciences University.
Prosecution of Debbie Lynn Wright’s co-defendants, Christin Lynn Wright and Thornhill, is pending.