Two Cobb County women pled guilty last week to conspiracy and racketeering charges after misusing grant money and drug-treatment funds that belonged to the county.
According to an article on Patch.com, the women, one from Smyrna and the other, Marietta, worked for the Cobb Juvenile Court. The women reportedly admitted to fraudulently spending thousands of dollars between 2012 and 2015 that belonged to Cobb County on Juvenile Drug Court Accountability programs.
“Some money was paid for work that was never done, some contractors were paid in advance for work outside the grant cycle, and other money purchased equipment and paid for items not authorized by the grants,” the article reads. “All of the money was obtained through the intentional submission of false invoices.”
Marian ‘Mea’ Fagiola, 49, a former Juvenile Court employee of Smyrna, pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the state or political subdivision, racketeering, and two counts of false statements or writings.
“Fagiola, who had administrative oversight of the invoicing process, admitted that a majority of the 75 invoices listed in the indictment contained a material falsehood, causing money to be wrongly paid out,” the article reads. “She claimed she had learned to do it that way, and that she did it for the good of the children. Fagiola was sentenced to seven years on probation and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine.”
Deborah Ponder, 48, of Marietta, also pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the state or political subdivision, racketeering, and theft by taking.
“Ponder had an office in Juvenile Court as the part-time executive director of Reconnecting Families, a non-profit group created to assist the court. That organization paid her a salary of $40,000 per year in 2013-2014 and $50,000 per year in 2015,” the article reads. “She also received a little over $60,000 in grant funds from Cobb Juvenile Court between April 2013 and April 2015, supposedly at the rate of $25 per hour for work above and beyond her duties with Reconnecting Families.”
Ponder reportedly failed to track her hours of work and also didn’t submit time sheets. Both she and Fagiola admitted that the invoices submitted to the State were false. Ponder was sentenced to five years on probation and ordered to pay restitution of $30,000.
For a fourth defendant, Carrie Kennedy, charges are pending.