A Cartersville-based accountant pleaded guilty to violating the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act in Bartow Superior Court Tuesday.
Gregory James Heath, principal of H&H Tax & Accounting LLC at 17 Felton Place Suite C in Cartersville, entered a negotiated plea of guilty to 64 counts of theft by taking while serving as an accountant and money manager for the Lakes of Stonegate Homeowners’ Association in Kennesaw.
“As a fiduciary of the HOA, [the] defendant was charged with proper management of the HOA’s funds,” a bill of indictment states. “Instead, the defendant used his position and access as accountant to siphon funds from the HOA’s accounts into his own accounts and those of his business.”
Cherokee Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Adam Wilkinson said Heath wrote, signed and deposited checks from the HOA accounts into his own accounts from July 2015 to August 2016.
“Those checks total over $100,000,” he said.
Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge David K. Smith sentenced Heath, 45, to 30 years with five years to serve in confinement and the remainder to be served on probation.
“I don’t want you being in charge of people’s money,” Smith said. “With computers these days, it’s possible to do all kinds of things, and you demonstrate that.”
Heath received a 20-year sentence, plus a $1,000 fine, for one count of violating the RICO Act. He also received a consecutive 10-year sentence for theft by taking and an additional $1,000 fine; concurrent with that sentence are 62 additional counts of theft by taking.
In total, Heath is ordered to pay $71,907.58 in restitution to the Lakes of Stonegate HOA through the Department of Community Supervision. According to a Bartow Superior Court final disposition, the fines associated with theft by taking counts will be suspended if all restitution is paid within 10 years.
Heath was also ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and is barred from having any direct or indirect contact with any members of the homeowners’ association.
Smith noted that Heath’s crimes could’ve resulted in a maximum 980-year sentence.
“You are not charged with a crime of violence,” he said. “You’re charged with a crime of vile theft.”
Heath has operated the tax preparation business in Bartow County since 2006. Wilkinson said it will shut down sometime over the next two weeks.
Defense attorney Samir J. Patel said Heath voluntarily relinquished his right to either a jury or non-jury trial.
Patel requested his client be sentenced under Georgia’s First Offender Act, which would have allowed Heath to expunge the conviction from his criminal record upon completion of the sentence.
Smith, however, denied the request.
“You stole from a homeowners’ association $72,000 … I’m not going to give you First Offender treatment,” he said. “If you apply for a job somewhere, I want your answer to be ‘I’m a convicted felon.'”
Per the final disposition, Heath must report to the Bartow County Jail by 6 p.m. on Oct. 26 to begin his sentence.
“And if you’re not at the Bartow County Jail by 6 p.m.,” Smith said, “the time clock starts ticking for an escape warrant.