COVINGTON - A Covington man has been arrested by the FBI and charged with conspiracy and extortion in connection with cash payoffs allegedly made in exchange for a lighter sentence to be handed down by DeKalb County courts, according to a press release issued by U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias.
DeKalb County Pretrial Services Coordinator Keith L. Hughes, 39, of 160 Cypress Drive, and DeKalb County Probation Officer Natalie Nicole Dunn, 32, of Ellenwood, were arrested Tuesday following an extensive investigation into the alleged "charge-fixing scheme."
"In exchange for $25,000 in cash payoffs, (Hughes and Dunn) allegedly offered to use their positions to help a charged drug dealer get a lighter sentence," Nahmias said. "This is not justice; it is extortion and corruption. Fortunately, this alleged corruption did not extend beyond these two defendants or into the ranks of prosecutor and judges who ultimately control the disposition of criminal cases."
According to the Criminal Complaint affidavit filed in the U.S. District Court, the Pretrial Services office where Hughes and Dunn are employed provides probation supervision, counseling and collection services for persons facing criminal charges in DeKalb County.
A person identified as "the source" notified the FBI that he was arrested in DeKalb County on Aug. 22 on drug trafficking charges and was contacted by Dunn, whom he described as a "longtime acquaintance." She allegedly offered to ensure that the source received a lenient sentence for or dismissal of pending criminal charges in exchange for a payment of $25,000.
The source told FBI agents he later met with Dunn, who demanded he pay $400 in exchange for helping him avoid attending an anger management class.
"Although the source was scheduled to attend the anger management class on the same day that this meeting with Dunn occurred, the source did not attend the course after paying Dunn the $400 in cash, nor has the source suffered any repercussions for not attending the course," the complaint alleges.
On Nov. 20, Dunn allegedly contacted the source and warned that he might face a 15-year jail sentence if the $25,000 was not paid, according to the complaint, and also allegedly offered to introduce the source to another drug dealer with whom he could do business.
"Subsequently, the source contacted the FBI regarding Dunn," the complaint states. After confirming this information, the FBI arranged for the source to work with them, giving him $5,000 to pay as an installment to ensure the lenient or dismissed sentence.
Dunn agreed to meet with the source at the DeKalb County Courthouse and offered to introduce him to a co-conspirator (Hughes) in order to assure the source that the services she was offering could actually be delivered.
"At the meeting, Hughes corroborated Dunn's assertions that (they) previously engaged in charge-fixing on behalf of others ... including an individual who confessed to murder in DeKalb County (who) received a probated sentence for the crime," the complaint states. "... Hughes also claimed that he would falsely report to the Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney that the source was cooperating in the investigation of others ... Further, Hughes said that Dunn and he could make a similar charge-fixing deal for a friend of the source."
The complaint states that the FBI recorded ongoing conversations and payments amounting to $10,000 taking place and ultimately interviewing Dunn and Hughes who allegedly admitted to the scheme.
"Equal treatment in our courts is one of the most basic and cherished civil rights," FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Greg Jones said in the press release. "Anyone who stands accused of a crime in this country must do so confident in the knowledge that they face a fair and impartial process, without corruption or outright greed. The FBI will continue to protect the rights of all Americans by rooting out this type of corruption wherever it exists."
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org