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Police Blotter, May 8, 2013

Ex-treasurer charged with $260k thefts

Posted: May 7, 2013 - 11:01pm

Ex-treasurer charged with $260k thefts

The former treasurer of an Evans neighborhood association has been charged with stealing more than a quarter-million dollars from the organization.

Laurie Wainwright Vanover, , of the block of, was charged with multiple counts of financial transaction card fraud, computer theft, theft by taking and theft by conversion after turning herself in Tuesday morning at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, said Capt. Steve Morris.

Vanover was released after posting $40,400 bond, Morris said.

Vanover, who cooperated in the investigation, is accused of stealing $267,663.08 from the Stratford Community Association between November 2008 and December 2012, while she served as treasurer of the organization, Morris said.

Association President Tom Gorta first reported to police that funds were missing from the account on Dec. 19, and initially investigators estimated about $192,000 had been taken from the neighborhood’s accounts.

Gorta said he’s not surprised that the amount of money Vanover is accused of stealing is more than he originally identified.

“It’s more, but it’s not that much more,” Gorta said. “When you think about how much she could have taken.”

During the nearly five-month investigation that followed, with Vanover’s assistance, auditors were able to find $135,155.50 listed as stolen through checks Vanover wrote or converted to her use; $115,115.10 had been taken through computer transactions; and $17,352.48 was taken through financial transaction card fraud, much of it through ATM withdrawals.

Vanover is a licensed real estate agent previously associated with various local agencies, but not currently employed. She previously served on the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau, but was not reappointed in January when her term expired as the case was under investigation.

The subdivision, off Hardy McManus Road, has 491 homes, Gorta has said. The association is responsible for maintenance of a community pool and common areas including an activity field and greenspace park.

There’s nothing the homeowners association wasn’t able to do because of the missing money, Gorta said. The theft had a lesser effect because it was done over time as opposed to one lump sum stolen.

“It hurts, don’t get me wrong,” Gorta said. “We’ll be fine. They (residents) just have to pay their dues.”

Vanover’s arrest is the second major Columbia County arrest in recent months for similar charges.

Charles Holtzclaw, 26, of Martinez, was charged under the Rackateer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in April for what investigators say was a scheme that stole more than $200,000 from his former employer, Howard Lumber Co. of Evans.

Holtzclaw currently is free on $25,000 bond.

Mom fatally stabbed toddler, police charge

Columbia County authorities charged an Augusta woman today with stabbing her toddler to death before crashing her sport utility vehicle into a tree in Appling on Thursday.

Marina Mae Middlebrooks, 29, of Norton Boulevard in Augusta, was charged with murder and cruelty to children in the death of her daughter, Sky Allen, according to Columbia County sheriff’s Capt. Steve Morris. She’s being held in the Columbia County Detention Center without bond.

Middlebrooks drifted off of Ray Owens Road in front of North Columbia Elementary School in Appling at about 4:20 p.m. Thursday. Her Honda CRV hit a tree. While initially tending to Middlebrooks, emergency medical personnel noticed Sky’s hand extended onto the driver’s seat from the floorboard, according to Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

Sky was found dead and facedown on the floorboard covered with fresh and dried blood and also covered by items including a purse and backpack, Collins said. A Friday autopsy at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab in Atlanta confirmed that Sky died from a stab wound to the throat deemed it a homicide, Collins said. She also had a minor cut to the side of her throat.

The attack could have occurred in the vehicle, but officials aren’t disclosing details of the attack.

“At this point, because it is an ongoing investigation, we’re not discussing any additional details to include when and where this occurred,” Morris said.

The following accounts were taken from reports from the Columbia County Sheriff’s office:

Naked man performs lewd act at rest area

A man was seen naked and masturbating at an Interstate 20 rest area Thursday afternoon.

A visitor to the rest area called authorities at about 7 p.m. after seeing a truck parked next to a dumpster at the rest area near the McDuffie County line. He saw a naked man on the ground behind the truck.

The naked man told a deputy that he was traveling from Texas to North Carolina on business. He admitted he was sitting on the ground naked while masturbating.

The man who called authorities said he didn’t want to press charges, but did want the naked man to leave the rest area.

Woman says bike thief
left different bicycle

A Grovetown woman told deputies Thursday that whoever stole her daughter’s bicycle left another in its place.

The 31-year-old woman said that on April 8, someone stole her daughter’s BMX freestyle bicycle from her Lone Oak Road home. The bicycle had pegs on the front wheels, 20-inch wheels, a loose seat and new front brakes. The thief left in its place a beach cruiser-style bicycle.

The woman said she went to several homes in the area looking for her daughter’s bicycle and the owner of the one left at her house without success.

Columbia County Fire Rescue weekly fire report, April 28-May 4:

Medical calls, 30; activated fire alarms, 14; controlled/unauthorized burns, nine; wrecks, seven; investigations, four; structure fires, four; wood/brush/grass fires, two; mutual aid/public safety assistance, two; assist citizens, one; electrical incidents, one; ruptured gas line, one; and vehicle fire, one.

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