A Murray County, Georgia, woman was arrested Tuesday, Dec. 11, after a four-month investigation revealed that she allegedly embezzled more than a quarter-million dollars from her Ringgold employer over several years.
According to the Ringgold Police Department, 42-year-old Judy Michelle Hicks was arrested on charges of theft by taking over $25,000, first-degree forgery, and unauthorized use of financial transaction cards.
Hicks' husband, 41-year-old James Christopher Hicks, was also arrested on a charge of party to a crime for his knowledge of and benefit from his wife's crimes. Both have been released from jail on bond.
Detective Anthony Gregory said the investigation began in the fall when the owner of Happy Feet International, a flooring company in Ringgold, discovered that his bookkeeper, Hicks, had been stealing money for personal use.
Hicks worked for the company for about six years, and Gregory says the investigation revealed that the habitual thievery had been going on for awhile.
"It all went back a while," Gregory said. "She worked there for six years, but it's mainly been the past three to four years that this type of activity has increased. In a nutshell, they found out that a lot of different things were going on."
Gregory said credit card purchases led to the initial discovery.
"The owner was reviewing who in the company had credit cards," Gregory said. "There were charges on statements for her card that didn't make sense. She (Hicks) was also writing checks to herself and putting them in her bank account, like extra paychecks."
Once the owner picked up on the activity, Hicks was fired and Ringgold police were notified.
"They immediately fired her and then called us about it," Gregory said. "She was their only bookkeeper and the company has grown to be worth several million dollars, so they didn't notice some of the purchases. Plus, they trusted her."
In November the total amount Hicks had allegedly swindled from the company reached the $240,000 mark, but Gregory says a forensic audit of all of Hicks' activity revealed other amounts that'd been taken, which pushed to total well over $250,000.
"The forensic auditor was hired to look at the books," Gregory said. "It's a lot of paperwork and a lot of documentation to go through. Our case file is about a foot thick."
Gregory said the investigation revealed instances when money went into Hick's personal bank account, paid for her son's braces, another person's dental work, vacations, payments on her credit cards, student loans, groceries, personal items, and even her Sirius Satellite Radio subscription.
Arrest and future of the case
After getting all the evidence in the case lined up, Gregory said he traveled to the couple's home in Murray County Monday, Dec. 10, to make the arrests, but was unsuccessful.
"I went to their residence to get them on Monday," Gregory explained. "He (James) was there, but wouldn't come to the door. They have cameras out in the trees and on the property, so he knew it was the police. Their attorney called a couple of hours later and arranged for them to turn themselves in at Catoosa County jail."
Jail records show the couple was booked around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11, and that both were released by 5 p.m.
Although Judy Hicks is the main culprit, Gregory said there is enough evidence to implicate her husband in the case.
"James Hicks was arrested too and charged in connection with this," Gregory said. "Being charged with party to a crime is kind of like an accessory — it's if a person aides or helps facilitate the crime. He was aware of what was going on and was profiting from it the same as she was."
Moving forward, Gregory says he'll meet with the Catoosa County District Attorney's Office to discuss the case and that an indictment against Hicks will have to be presented to a Catoosa County Superior Court grand jury.