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Was ID theft to blame for DeKalb commissioner’s fraud charges?
By JIM WALLS
Feb. 2, 2010 — DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton says identity theft might be the cause of her recent troubles over bad checks in Gwinnett County.
But signatures on the four bounced checks, copied from the file at Gwinnett Magistrate Court, look quite similar to Sutton’s signature on campaign disclosure documents on file at the Georgia secretary of state’s office. (Scroll down to compare the signatures for yourself.)
Sutton told the weekly newspaper CrossRoads News last week:
“I don’t remember writing those checks. It didn’t look like my handwriting. It could be a case of identity theft. I have my lawyer looking into it.”
Sutton has said she had no idea that Gwinnett had issued arrest warrants against her over the checks. “I want the public to know had I known this was an issue, I would have taken care of it,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Jan. 21.
We called and e-mailed Sutton at her DeKalb County office seeking comment on the signatures and on the delivery confirmation. She did not respond.
Court records show a Costco store in January 2008 swore out four warrants against Sutton for alleged deposit account fraud after four checks for a total of $1,270 were returned for insufficient funds. All four checks had been written on Sutton’s Wachovia account over a two-day period.
A Gwinnett magistrate signed the warrants for Sutton’s arrest. The counts were misdemeanors, each punishable by a maximum of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
Costco had mailed Sutton a notice in February 2007 warning her the checks would be turned over to the courts for prosecution if she did not make complete payment within 10 days. The notice was mailed to the southwest Atlanta address for Sutton that was printed on the checks. Someone with the same last name signed to acknowledge receipt of the letter.
The unserved warrants turned up Jan. 20 after Sutton was involved in a minor traffic accident. DeKalb police officers learned of the warrants at the scene but allowed Sutton to leave rather than arresting her.
A Gwinnett magistrate withdrew the warrants the next day after Sutton settled up with Costco.
Here’s the signature on one of the Costco checks:
And here’s Sutton’s signature on a campaign disclosure report: