2 charged in United Way thefts

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2016

LPD said thefts started in 2009

By Melanie Ruberti


LaGRANGE — Investigators with the LaGrange Police Department announced Friday they arrested two women for allegedly stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the an education program within the United Way of West Georgia.

Alfreda Hyman Edmondson of Troup County, and Ann Gray Spell of Talladega, Alabama, are accused of defrauding the United Way of West Georgia and the Troup County Board of Education through the Troup BELL organization by a variety of undisclosed methods for more than $200,000.

LaGrange police and Troup County sheriff’s deputies arrested Edmondson on Friday afternoon at her home on Weathers Drive. Spell was arrested in Talladega, Alabama, Friday morning by the Talladega County Sheriff’s Office, said LaGrange police Sgt. William Nelson. She will remain in the Talladega County Jail until she can be extradited back to Troup County, which could happen as early as Monday.

Each woman is charged with 14 counts of theft by deception, four counts of theft by conversion and four counts of identity fraud.

Edmondson was also charged with one count of financial transaction card fraud, Nelson added.

Police said they were notified of the potential theft on Nov. 18, 2014, by United Way executive director Patty Youngblood.

According to LPD investigators, a United Way employee notified Youngblood and the board of directors of inconsistencies related to billing practices and payments for services rendered by the educational organization Troup BELL.

The United Way serves as a fiscal agent for Troup BELL. At that time, Edmondson was the head of the program.

The United Way had started an internal investigation and determined that a large scale fraud had taken place within Troup BELL since 2009, according to police. Investigators said the organization also determined the Troup County Board of Education, the initial fiscal agent for Troup BELL, was a victim in this case as well.

“We filed the police report on November 18, 2014, and it’s been an ongoing investigation since then,” Youngblood explained via phone on Friday. “We’ve been working with the LaGrange Police Department, forensic auditors, the District Attorney’s office and more. We do have an insurance policy in place that will help us recover a good deal of that money. You even hate to say you have that, but we have we were floored when we discovered the theft …”

Pick up the weekend edition of the LaGrange Daily News to read more of the United Way’s reaction to the arrests, how investigators reportedly tracked the missing funds to Edmondson and Spell – plus see how the former Troup BELL director responded to the allegations against her.

Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-883-7311, ext. 2156.