Marietta Daily Journal Interviews Taylor English Attorney Henry Quillian on use of Georgia RICO Statute to Help Client Recover Embezzled Assets
by Kim Isaza firstname.lastname@example.org MARIETTA - Assets of the former office manager of a Marietta company have been frozen under Georgia's RICO statute, even though Sheri Burton Blount has been convicted of no crime. "Some people might think the statute is only for use against mobsters," said Henry Quillian III, a lawyer in the Galleria-area firm of Taylor English Duma. "Georgia RICO is dramatically more flexible than federal statute, and requires only two racketeering activities, and those are defined as a list of run of the mill crimes. If the person has done more than one taking, the RICO can be used." He is representing Blount's former employer, Expanded Technologies Inc. of Marietta, in a civil suit against Blount. The company presses steel for air filters, and has about 50 employees. It is located on Hayes Industrial Drive, near Interstate 75 and Canton Road. Quillian said his client believes Blount, 43, stole more than $225,000 over at least seven years, and he said bank records and canceled checks show the money was used to buy two cars, a WaveRunner, concert tickets, artwork and more. Quillian said that after Blount was fired in April for other reasons, company officials discovered that checks had been forged and Blount's corporate credit card used for personal purchases. Blount is the daughter of Emmett Burton, who was east Cobb Commissioner from 1984 through 1992. Attorney Jimmy Berry is representing Blount in the civil case, which was filed May 24 in Cobb Superior Court, and against criminal charges. She was arrested June 17 on a charge of theft by deception, and is free on $35,000 bail. Both the criminal and civil cases are in preliminary stages, all parties have said. "I can't really comment on the facts or whether she's guilty or innocent," Berry said. "Right now, we're just accumulating information." As for the freezing of his client's assets, he called it "fairly routine." "Plaintiffs want to freeze assets so nothing can be disposed of," he said. Quillian said that was exactly why he sought the asset-freeze, including an injunction preventing her from selling her home in northeast Cobb. "With embezzlement, usually people are taking the money to spend it, and the cash is gone before the company can do anything about it," he said. "We also got the order without any notice to the defendant. If any defendant knew in advance [that assets were to be frozen], they'd likely sell everything and spend the money." Although the RICO statute provides for triple damages on top of punitive damages, Quillian acknowledged that his client is unlikely to see that much. "We're definitely looking for more [than what was stolen], because we've spent a lot on attorney's fees," Quillian said. "But it's looking unlikely she has the ability to pay on her own for all the money she's taken." Blount's lawyer, Berry, reiterated that "the case has not been tried, either civilly or criminally." As to how his client is able to pay bills if her accounts are frozen, he said people in this situation can open new accounts for routine bills. Blount has a daughter in college, Berry said, and her family is assisting her. "People who are very lucky have family who can step in and help," he said.