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Local woman pleads guilty in Haralson fraud case

The woman accused of defrauding the late Crisp County Sheriff Donnie Haralson as he battled cancer has pleaded guilty to a single count of federal wire fraud, according to documents filed last month in the U.S. Middle District of Georgia’s Albany courthouse.

An attorney for Misty McKee, aka Misty Blanton, struck the plea bargain with Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan Dasher. If accepted by the judge at a September hearing, Blanton will serve 18 months in a federal prison. According to the plea document, if Blanton were to be found guilty of the single wire fraud count, she faced a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment, a maximum fine of $250,000, or both, and a term of supervised release for up to three years, along with a $100 mandatory assessment.

Blanton originally faced five counts of wire fraud and four counts of making false entries in bank records. Those charges came as the result of an investigation into her work as Haralson’s bookkeeper and at a local bank.

According to the plea agreement signed by Blanton, she acknowledges that:

“From March 3, 2010 through April 9, 2014, Blanton moved moneys from [Haralson’s money market] account to make purchases for her own personal use and to pay for her own personal expenses and services, including the purchase of a vehicle, kitchen cabinets, case withdrawals, and transfers of funds from [Haralson]’s money market account to her own account, and to make payments on her own personal credit card accounts, that were not expressly authorized by [Haralson.] Records from Blanton’s credit card companies reflect online internet payments that correspond to the online payments shown in [Haralson]’s bank statements. Among the unauthorized online credit card payments made in interstate commerce from [Haralson]’s account was an electronic payment to Blanton’s AE (American Eagle Outfitters) Visa account in the amount of $1,169.39 on or about March 19, 2014.

“[Haralson] likely trusted Blanton to have access to this account and likely had her name on it to easily allow her to write checks/pay expenses as part of her bookkeeping duties. When directly asked about some of the suspicious transactions from this account made after [Haralson]’s death, Blanton gave conflicting answers to include that [Haralson] left her money in his will. According to [Haralson]’s wife, [Haralson] did not leave anything to Blanton in his will.”

Blanton’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for September 4 at 1 p.m. in Albany before U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner.