Medical College of Georgia employee sentenced for racketeering - WFXG FOX54 Augusta - Your News One Hour Earlier

Former Medical College of Georgia employee sentenced for racketeering

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A former Medical College of Georgia and Georgia State Prison employee who worked at the state prison in Reidsville pleaded guilty Wednesday to racketeering.

Paul Sylvester Thornhill was sentenced to six months in prison, followed by nine and a half months probation for his role in using falsified time records to steal money from the state, according to a release from the Georgia Attorney General's Office. He was also ordered to pay $80,000 in restitution.

As an hourly employee of the Medical College of Georgia - now Georgia Regents University, Thornhill was contracted to work as a licensed practical nurse at the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville.

Thornhill participated in a fraudulent payroll scheme with Debbie Lynn Wright, a former senior clerk responsible for timekeeping of hourly employees, according to the attorney general's office. Wright manually entered fraudulent data into timekeeping software, which resulted in Thornhill being paid for overtime hours he didn't work and receiving double or triple payment for working the same hours.

The fraudulent payments were either directly deposited by the State of Georgia into Thornhill's bank accounts or paid via checks that Thornhill deposited, according to the attorney general's office. Thornhill would then return the money to Wright or pay bills on her behalf, and then keep the balance for his own use.

Wright pleaded guilty on Nov. 1, 2012 in Tattnall County Superior Court to one count of racketeering, according to the attorney general's office. She was sentenced to two years of imprisonment, followed by eight years probation. She was also ordered to pay $27,500 in restitution.

Wright's daughter, Christin Lynn Wright, who also took part in the scheme, pleaded guilty on Feb. 13, 2013, in Tattnall County Superior Court to one count of racketeering and one count of theft by taking, according to the attorney general's office. She was sentenced to one year in prison, followed by four years probation and restitution in the amount of $10,296.93.

All three former employees were initially investigated at the request of the warden of the facility, following a whistleblower complaint in December 2009. Their employment was terminated within two weeks of the allegations having first surfaced.

Assistant Attorney General Greg Lohmeier and former Assistant Attorney General Shepard Orlow prosecuted the case on behalf of the State of Georgia. The case was investigated by Special Agent James O'Sullivan of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Will Barnes and Eddie Yates of the former Georgia Health Sciences University.

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