Indictment: Clay, another woman defrauded business of more than $600,000

Published 6:34 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Details of a federal indictment charging a Selma woman with multiple counts of wire fraud have been released.

The indictment, which came from a grand jury in United States District Court Middle District of Georgia Columbus Division, charges Dorita Clay and Darlene Corbett with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 22 counts of wire fraud.

The indictment alleges Corbett embezzled more than $600,000 from her stepson’s businesses in Madison and Columbus, Georgia through checks and wire transfers to Clay from April 2015 to September 2016.

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“Defendants Corbett and Dorita Clay, in conspiracy with one another, devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud Steve Corbett … and to obtain money and property from him, by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises,” the indictment reads.

Steve Corbett, Darlene Corbett’s step-son, owns two apartment complexes, The Grand Reserve at Columbus (GRC) and The Grand Reserve at Madison (GRM).

According to the indictment, Darlene was the chief financial officer for her stepson’s business from 2009 until she was fired in September 2016. As CFO, she handled financial matters for the apartment complexes, which included the authority to write checks and wire money for business purposes. Clay had no connection to the business.

“It was part of the conspiracy that defendant Corbett, in her capacity as CFO, caused monies belonging to Steve Corbett … to be misappropriated,” the indictment reads. “This was accomplished by writing unauthorized checks on several different GRC and GRM banks accounts to herself as ‘Darlene B. Corbett,’ to ‘cash,’ and to defendant Clay.”

Corbett allegedly wrote checks to Clay as “D.L. Clay,” “Dorita Clay” and “L. Clay.” According to the indictment, the checks were then cashed by Corbett and Clay. The checks and money wires were for as little as $6,465 and as large as $75,000. In total, they add up to $607,365.

Out of the 22 transfers listed in the indictment, 21 of them were to a Wells Fargo account in the name of D.L. Clay.

Clay filed a lawsuit in August against Wells Fargo alleging a branch manager in Selma wrongfully provided her account information to an FBI agent, who was investigating the case.

That lawsuit was filed in Dallas County Circuit Court, but her attorney Julian McPhillips said last week it had been removed to federal court. He said Wednesday the lawsuit might be put on hold until the criminal case can be resolved

Clay was arrested last week and arraigned in federal court Friday. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Middle District of Georgia, Clay is no longer in custody and was released on a $25,000 bond.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported earlier this week Clay gave FBI agents trouble while turning herself in.

Last week, McPhillips called the charges “weak,” and he stands by that.

“I think the indictment is very misguided, and I think it reflects a misunderstanding on the part of the agents in the investigation, at least according to what my client informs us,” McPhillips said Wednesday. “She was not on the receiving end of any embezzlement as they are trying to put forth.”

McPhillips said his client earned her money through gambling.

“She got her money legally. Although some people don’t like the way she got it, but nonetheless legally,” he said. “I’ve seen the tax records from all the money she got from gambling, and they’re legitimate tax records.”

Clay said in August that she loaned a friend money, and when the friend paid her back, they began investigating her for embezzlement.

“I loaned this lady a whole lot of money. I’m not talking about a couple thousand dollars. I’m talking about some money,” Clay said in an August interview with the Times-Journal. “When she paid me back … they thought she embezzled the money.”

McPhillips said Clay would be represented by David Helmick, a Columbus attorney, in the criminal case. Calls to Helmick seeking comment on the case Wednesday were not returned.

A phone number for Clay found in court records for her lawsuit against Wells Fargo is no longer in service. She could not be reached for comment.

Clay has a criminal history that includes theft by deception, theft of property, forgery and identity theft.