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Relative of a Former Georgia Tech Employee Pleads Guilty to Theft and Defrauding the University

PRESS ADVISORY

Relative of a Former Georgia Tech Employee Pleads Guilty to Theft and Defrauding the University

March 24, 2011

Tara Crystal Anderson pled guilty yesterday to one count of Conspiracy to Defraud the State (O.C.G.A. § 16-10-21) and one count of Theft by Taking (O.C.G.A. § 16-8-2) before Judge Karen Woodson in Fulton County Superior Court.

The charges against Anderson stemmed from an investigation into the actions of former Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) employee Merideth Durrah. Durrah was a program coordinator for Georgia Tech’s Georgia Intern Fellowship for Teachers (GIFT) program. In that capacity, she processed checks for public school math and science teachers who participated in summer internships with Georgia Tech professors. Georgia Tech’s Department of Internal Auditing was alerted to possible fraud in the program when a woman named Shalonda Reed contacted the school, indicating that her social security number and name had been used on checks issued by GIFT program. Ms. Reed had never participated in the GIFT program, and in fact, lives in another state.

In December 2010, the Fulton County Grand Jury indicted Durrah, Shalunda Reed and Anderson on charges related to the issuance of four fraudulent checks. The indictment alleges that in October 2008, Durrah created fictitious paperwork to authorize a $2,550.00 payment to Anderson for participation in the GIFT program. The indictment further alleges that Anderson cashed the check, and that the proceeds were shared between Durrah and Anderson. Anderson is Durrah’s niece.

Anderson received a ten year sentence, with the first year to be spent incarcerated. The incarceration portion of the sentence was commuted to time previously served. Anderson was ordered to pay joint and several restitution with Durrah to Georgia Tech in the amount of $2,550.00. She was allowed First Offender treatment.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Schwartz prosecuted Anderson on behalf of the State of Georgia. The case was investigated by the Georgia Tech Department of Internal Auditing and by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Wesley Horne.

The charges against Durrah and Shalunda Reed are still pending.