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Was ID theft to blame for DeKalb commissioner’s fraud charges?



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.”

The notice sent to Sutton to inform her of the bounced checks is also a part of the Gwinnett court file, as is a receipt acknowledging delivery signed by someone with the same last name.

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:





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8 Responses to “Was ID theft to blame for DeKalb commissioner’s fraud charges?”

  1. Eleanor says:

    If she honestly thought identity fraud was involved she would have filed a police report on same, gone to her bank and signed an affidavit and not paid the checks. She knew all along, as far as I am concerned, that these checks were out there and thought she could go on forever without paying them. She is a disgrace to the Commission and above all should not be teaching our children. Get a life Sherry, face the truth, admit your wrongs, and move on.

  2. Cerebration says:

    Funny. She must be friends with Dr. “I accidentally pumped premium so I siphoned it out and refilled with regular” Lewis. These people are absolutely silly!

  3. Neal Smith says:

    The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits. – Albert Einstein.

    Enough said.

  4. The video knows says:

    Gee – wouldn’t Costco have video surveillance from the day these checks were written? Seems like it would be pretty easy to check to see if it was really Sharon writing those checks.

  5. Eleanor says:

    If you honestly felt you did not write those checks why would you go pay them? In my humble opinion she knew she wrote them, she knew that they were returned for NSF and chose to ignore it, thinking she was above the law and wouldn’t get caught. If she honestly felt her identity had been stolen why wouldn’t she go to DeKalb Police Department and make a report? She needs to go and she needs to be fired from her teaching job. I sure wouldn’t want one of mine in any of her classes. Easy to come up with flimsy excuses when you get caught. I am not college education but you can bet your bottom dollar if I write a check for even five dollars, I am checking to make sure it clears and my balance shows that check was written and the money left there until it clears. And why, after she was told to go to Gwinnett to get it straightened out with their PD did she disobey and go call her lawyer. She contradicts herself every time she opens her mouth.

  6. Margaret says:

    I think she didn’t go to the police because a family member did this. Those two signatures are similar, but not the same– just as one of my parents, an uncle, a cousin (my uncle’s daughter) and I have VERY similar signatures. We were so intrigued we read up on the subject. I don’t claim to be an expert (but I play one on TV!), but take a look at this:
    Assuming the candidate signature is the one that is actually hers–
    –She does not connect the first letter in each of her names to the second letter. The signature from the bounced check is connected each time.
    –I sign my own name on my own checks so I know where to start to keep from running out of room at the end. The check writer did not begin the signature at a point where they would have enough room at the end– maybe they are not familiar enough with signing the name
    –The candidate signature has high, pointed “peaks” at the top of the letter ‘n.’ The check does not have these peaks.
    –The candidate signature has an open, rounded, loop in the letter ‘h.’ The check does not.
    –The candidate signs ON the line. The check writer does not.
    –The candidate signature crosses her t’s complete, up high and with flair– that is a definite personality type. The check writer crosses incomplete and very low– another personality type.
    –The candidate signature is like a half-cursive, half-print. The check signature is all cursive except the ‘r’ is half print.
    –The flair on the ‘n’ in “Sharon” in the candidate signature flows naturally and the same ‘n’ in the check has a deliberate stop at the very end.
    –The only things truly similar are the ‘r’ and the “S” and even those have pointed and rounded differences.
    I’d be willing to bet the family member was intercepting the notices that came to the house– but I don’t know how she could miss the bank statements unless she is like some folk I know who keep a balance in their head and never look at statements. Does she have a daughter or sister in the home or that has access to her home?

  7. don Gabacho says:

    The presumption that the authorities themselves must somehow be exempt from the shenanigans of politcal hacks in this state, in even cases of identification fraud, is ludicrous.

  8. Brian says:

    It was only 1200 dollars? Four checks? Ha I bet she has that in her change purse. Why is this news? sounds like a political attack. Somebody that inept could’nt have gotten elected in the first place and shame on you local media for trying to politically lynch this woman. This is just the modern day cross burning in old Stone Mountain WSB has always been racist since the 40’s and 50’s