Former Augusta District 4 Commissioner Sammie Lee Sias, 67, of Hephzibah, faces up to 20 years in federal prison after being found guilty by a U.S. District Court jury of record falsification and making a false statement to a U.S. agency by the Southern District of Georgia last week.
“Former Commissioner Sias knew his handling of sales tax funds was under investigation, and he deleted thousands of electronic files within hours of a federal order requiring him to provide those files,” U.S. Attorney David H. Estes said.
Sias spoke to reporters on Monday but took no questions.
“It is what it is. I think it’s fair. We’ve been preparing to deal with this from this point forward. My team, I believe, put on a very good defense for me but obviously it did not go my way and we will be prepared to move forward from here,” Sias said. “I hold no malice against the process. I hold no malice against the jury, or the judge or the prosecutors. It is time for me personally to go ahead and prepare to deal with this and move on from there.”
In addition to a possible two decades of incarceration, Sias may also have to pay significant fines and be subject to five years of supervised release upon completion of his prison sentence.
“This verdict demonstrates that no one is above the law, and that there is a penalty for obstructing investigators working to find the truth,” Estes said.
Both the GBI and the FBI opened an investigation into the role Sias played in the expenditure of Richmond County special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) funds in 2019 and served him federal subpoenas in July.
Computer experts at the FBI testified that Sias deleted some 7,000 files from a laptop that belonged to the Jamestown Community Center hours after an agent had served him.
The former commissioner “did knowingly alter, destroy, mutilate, conceal, and cover up records, documents and other objects, to wit, digital files belonging to Sandridge Community Association (SCA)”, the SDGA said in its indictment.
Sias was the longtime president of the SCA, which operated the Jamestown Community Center, owned by Richmond County.
After a four-day trial, the jury deliberated for two hours before delivering guilty verdicts on one count of “destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations,” and one count of a “false statement or representation made to a department or agency of the United States.”
There is no parole in the federal prison system.
“Again, it did not go my way, but I don’t hold any malice about that,” Sias said.
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