HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Cherish Serene Stewart, 46, of Hiawassee, was arrested and charged with five counts of forgery in the first degree, and five counts of theft by taking in excess of $1,500.
According to the arrest report obtained from Hiawassee Police Department, the date of the alleged offense was documented as occuring Dec. 21, 2018. The complainant was listed as United Community Bank. A total amount of $5,900 was recorded as allegedly stolen from United Community Bank by Stewart, via the report. A detective with Hiawassee Police Department met with the bank president March 29, upon consultation with an Enotah Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney, in order to acquire additional information on the investigation.
According to Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, Enotah Judicial Circuit may claim an “open investigation/pending prosecution” case which would prevent additional details from being released at this time. FYN will update future information should it become available.
Stewart is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – United Community Bank, whose corporate office is located in Blairsville, has been named by J.D. Power as the highest-ranking bank in customer service in the southeast for the fifth year in a row.
United Community Bank is the third largest bank in Georgia, with 65 branches statewide.
Forbes, in conjunction with market research firm Statista, surveyed over 25,000 banking customers on their current and former banking experiences, in order to compile a list of the 100 Best Banks in America.
Banks and credit unions were evaluated on overall satisfaction and recommendations, financial advice, branch and digital services, terms and conditions, and trust.
Up to five banks per state were recognized, with 124 nationwide banks earning a spot on Forbes inaugural list.
“Earning this recognition confirms that we are providing our customers with the service they deserve, which is our number one priority,” Community Banking President Bill Gilbert said, “Our roots are in Georgia and we are pleased that our efforts to go the extra mile to take care of our customers is both recognized and appreciated in our home state.”
Synovus Bank and SunTrust Bank, respectfully, placed second and third.
Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Towns, Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Enotah Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Chairman Liz Ruf joined the Mountain Movers and Shakers on Friday, Oct. 26, to promote the annual Dancing with the North Georgia Stars fundraising event, scheduled for the evening of Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Union County Schools Performing Arts Center in Blairsville.
The event is sponsored by United Community Bank.
Funds raised will benefit the Enotah CASA program with the training and management of additional volunteers to serve as a consistent adult figure, and a voice for the vulnerable children, within the foster care system of Towns, Union, Lumpkin, and White counties.
“CASA is central to fulfilling society’s most fundamental obligation by making sure a qualified, compassionate adult will fight for and protect a child’s right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to learn and grow in the security of a loving family,” the CASA website explains.
Each North Georgia Star will be paired with a professional or semi-professional dancer from the region to present a variety of dancing genres, from modern jazz to classical ballroom. Each team will perform choreographed dance routines before a live audience.
Each dollar earned by a dancer equals one vote. Fans can vote for their favorite celebrity couple through Nov. 3, until 11:30 a.m. online, and at the event.
Donate to a favorite couple using the links listed below.
A People’s Choice Award will be presented to the couple who raises the most funds.
Dance teams will be judged the night of the competition on costume, choreography & technical performance by an impartial three judge panel. The winning dance team will be awarded the Mirror Ball trophy.
Tickets for the event are available on the Enotah CASA website.
The 2018 dancing duos are as follows:
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Two pit stops occurred in the heart of Hiawassee during the 9th annual Georgia Mountain Moonshine Cruiz-In.
The first took place on the evening of Wednesday, July 11, as a fresh event was introduced to the itinerary: A “drive-in” movie presentation of the 1978 classic hit, ‘Grease’, starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.
Vehicles from different eras traveled from miles around to rest their engines on Hiawassee Square while their owners enjoyed a night on the town. Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales graciously welcomed newcomers to the event as they arrived, taking their seats among the ever-growing crowd. A senior couple danced to aptly-themed music, entertaining bystanders before the main event began. Towns County High School football players sold beverages to fund the purchase of needed equipment. Towns County Library Branch Manager Debbie Phillips operated an old-fashion popcorn machine, and the smell of a vendor’s hot boiled peanuts tempted guests to snack as they watched the film.
The following day, Thursday, July 12, the owners of antique vehicles, along with appreciative spectators, flocked to the town square to participate in Hiawassee’s second annual Moonshine Cruiz-In Block Party. A parade of classic cars arrived on the square at noon, greeted by upbeat music streamed by “Soundman” Tim Massey. A sudden downpour of rain began to fall in unison as the cars roared in. Attendees sought shelter under the tents provided by United Community Bank, Hiawassee Police Department, and beneath nearby store-front awnings while they waited for the summer storm to pass. The clouds soon cleared, and visitors circled the square, stopping to converse with car owners while ogling a variety of vehicles from days gone by.
“I think it’s great that Hiawassee added (these events) to the line-up,” Jerry Shook, a Habersham County resident and the proud owner of a pristine 1956 Ford Town Sedan, told FetchYourNews, “I attend every year, and it’s a nice to have even more to look forward to.”
Food vendors set up shop along Berrong Street, which was closed to traffic. Local restaurants Monte Alban, Sundance Grill, Asiano’s, and Hawgs & Dawgs BBQ offered a selection of festival-friendly fare. Cub Scouts Troop 407 supplied soft drinks to heat-parched guests. The event ran until 2:00 pm, and the classic cars and trucks proceeded to the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds to regroup for a sixty mile caravan cruise to Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Georgia. The crew returned to the fairgrounds that evening to celebrate the Sour Mask Kickoff Bash, overlooking sparking Lake Chatuge.
(Feature Photo: Jerry Shook checks under the hood of his 1956 Ford Town Sedan)
Hiawassee, GA – Local celebrities, partnered with professionals, are brushing up their best moves to hit the dance floor for charity on Saturday, November 4.
Enotah CASA , a non-profit whose mission is to establish safe and permanent homes for local abused or neglected children, has announced their lineup for Dancing with North Georgia Stars.
Hiawassee Councilman Kris Berrong and Manager of Brothers Restaurant, Heath Ledford, will perform with a professional dance partner at the Union County Schools Fine Arts Center in Blairsville to raise funds for children in need of loving care.
Sponsored by United Community Bank, tickets are available for the event at the bank’s Hiawassee and Blairsville locations, the Towns County Chamber of Commerce, and from the dancers themselves.
Tickets are $40 per person and include a gala immediately following the charity event at North Georgia Technical College in Blairsville.
Music, dancing, hors d’oeuvres, tastings with Grandaddy Mimms, and a cash bar are in the “stars” for attendees.
Tickets for the show alone are $25 per person.
Doors open at 6:15 pm, the pre-show is scheduled for 6:30 pm, and the show itself begins at 7:00 pm.
Supporters can also cast their vote for their favorite dance team online or in person by cash, check, credit, or PayPal.
“[CASA] volunteers are trained to advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children in juvenile court. Our volunteers are assigned by the juvenile court judge to speak up for the needs of the children in court and they work with the children until the case is resolved satisfactorily. Our primary goal is to have the child in a safe and stable home as quickly as possible,” Event Chair Liz Ruf tells Fetch Your News.
For more information, contact CASA at 706.864.0300 or visit their website.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held a Special-Called Meeting on the morning of Friday, July 20, to sign a resolution pertaining to the transfer of a county money market account from South State Bank to United Community Bank in Hiawassee, where the the county will receive a higher interest rate return. “We know that it’s going to be a substantial amount of money,” Bradshaw said, “We’re going to gain quite a bit of money from doing this.” Along with the recent transfer of a certificate of deposit, Bradshaw sent the matter “out for bid” to ensure a maximum return for Towns County.
The money market account is used in conjunction with the county checking account which supplies funds for county operations. The transfer is expected to take place on August 1, 2018.
The commissioner added that he looks forward to reviewing the 2017 figures gained from sales tax revenue, expected in September. An amount of $48.7 million was collected during the previous fiscal year. With tourism steadily on the rise, Bradshaw hopes to receive an increasingly positive report.
Commissioner Bradshaw will hold his regularly monthly meeting at the Towns County Courthouse on Tuesday, August 21, at 5:30 p.m.
Meetings are open to the public.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw held a special called meeting Friday, June 1, to announce the acceptance of a certificate of deposit (CD) bid from United Community Bank in Hiawassee.
“One of our CDs was coming up for renewal, so we bid it out between South State Bank and United Community Bank,” Bradshaw explained. “United Community won the bid with a higher interest rate. We did two CDs for a million dollars at $500,000 each.”
“Some would rather climb a tree to tell a lie than stand on the ground and tell the truth” BKP
Monday afternoon July 18th in a Pickens County Courtroom Senior Judge Richard Winegarden signed the nolle prosequi orders dropping the charges against Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and Attorney Russell Stookey.
Thomason and Stookey were arrested Friday 6-24-16. Thomason was charged with three counts; identity fraud, attempt to commit identity fraud and making a false statement. Stookey was charged with two counts; identity fraud and attempt to commit identity fraud.
Appalachian Judicial District Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver filed the complaint with the District Attorney’s office. District Attorney B. Alison Sosebee presented the charges to a Pickens County Grand Jury made up of sixteen citizens. The Grand Jury returned true bills on both Thomason and Stookey.
When the charges were dropped that made the file concerning this case open for the public to view, FYN spent Friday afternoon thoroughly reviewing the file. I listened to the witness interviews several times.
Immediately after the court adjourned Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss did an interview with Channel 2’s Mark Winne. (Doss interview with Mark Winne.) She told Winne she has spoken with the FBI three times since March.
Mark Thomason, Russell Stookey, Lynn Doss, and Fannin Probate Judge Scott Kiker have made claims that there is currently an FBI investigation into Judge Brenda Weaver and Judge Roger Bradley. Thomason, Stookey, and Doss have made the same claims concerning the FBI during interviews. Witness interviews claim Kiker told them about the FBI investigation in detail.
Throughout the DA’s investigation one name kept coming up, County Attorney Lynn Doss. It is common knowledge in the Appalachian Judicial District that Doss does not care very much for Judge Roger Bradley. I stated in a previous article a comment Doss made to me regarding her feelings for Bradley.
Doss serves as the Attorney for Fannin County, Fannin County Water Authority, and the Fannin County Board of Education. Her husband Harry Doss is the Fannin County Juvenile Public Defender and the Fannin County Probate Judge Public Defender. The Doss’s have received a lot of money for several years from Fannin County taxpayers. Side note, FYN has researched Doss and Kiker court cases from Cobb to Towns Counties and have found several cases where Lynn Doss and Scott Kiker are co-counsel. See any conflict with that? Doss is public defender in Kiker’s courtroom. Also what happened to the promise Kiker made the voters of Fannin County that he would be a full-time Probate Judge? Far from it, Kiker has private cases in several counties. And that is a story for another day.
Lynn Doss thoroughly understands attorney/client privilege so why would she risk losing a client like Fannin County Board of Commissioners who pays her $5,708 per month, $68,496 a year? I asked Chairman Bill Simonds if he knew that Fannin County was being investigated by the FBI and also if he knew Doss was speaking to the FBI? Simonds told us he just found out in the last couple of weeks and was not aware of any conversations Doss was having or may have had with the FBI.
Remember the checks from the Judge’s account which Thomason claimed appeared to have been illegally cashed? Who gave the checks to Stookey or Thomason? During an interview with DA Investigator Greg Arp, Simonds told Arp he understood that Doss said she thought the FBI would be contacting her and so Doss wanted the checks. Simonds went on to say, his understanding was that Doss gave the checks to Stookey who in turn gave them to Thomason.
So if Doss told Simonds about the FBI possibly contacting her why did she not come back to her client (Fannin County) and confirm her involvement with the FBI investigation once she was actually contacted?
Investigator Arp asked Simonds if Doss ever admitted to him who she gave the checks to? Simonds replied “Oh Yeah! She gave the checks to this Stookey guy. She is the county attorney. She has no F****** business giving checks out to nobody especially another attorney. She said ‘I do that all the time, I give out numbers.’ Simonds said, ‘Lynn this is a lot different than a F****** telephone number, this ain’t no telephone number.’ She lied about it. I think this is a d*** vendetta. Lynn is vindictive.”
The DA’s investigators Greg Arp and Christy O’Dell interviewed Rita Davis Kirby. Kirby is Fannin County’s CFO. Kirby told investigators that she gave the check in question to Doss and only Doss.
“She is the only one who had the checks. The only person who had copies of those checks. It’s obvious that Lynn is the only one with copies of the checks from Fannin County. If Mark Thomason has a copy of them it came to him from Lynn Doss. In March Lynn comes in and asks me for a copy of the third quarter, second, third and fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 of Judge Bradley’s checks. She said I have gotten word the FBI is going to be looking into this and they will probably call me so if you will just go ahead and get those for me I will have them when they contact me. I got her the copies and sent them to her. She sent me an email and said could I go ahead and give her the other two judges just for the sake of not singling any one judge out. Something to that effect. She emailed me. Kirby said Doss never came back and said anything about the FBI investigation. “
Kirby was asked if the FBI had made any requests to the commissioner’s office?
“No, and that is what’s strange to me as well.”
Kirby recounted a meeting with investigators between Doss, Simonds, and herself concerning who Doss gave the checks to and how she knew they had been cashed. “ When Bill got a copy of the Open Records Request that Thomason sent Chairman Rob Jones in Pickens County, Lynn came in and was in Bill’s office. Kirby went into Bill’s office and sat down. Lynn read a copy of the email and told Bill she needed to talk to him about this. She needed to explain. She said this is crazy (Lynn), I could kill Mark Thomason (jokingly). All I know about this is ‘Mark Thomason received copies of these checks from Rita,’ and I (Kirby) stopped her. I said “No, Lynn, No he didn’t.” “I thought I had given him those checks but I didn’t. I went back to verify that. I did not give those checks to Mark Thomason, you are the only one I gave those checks too. She said (Lynn) I’m not sure how he got them.”
The reasoning behind the investigation is there is a problem about ‘if’ the checks have been cashed and they’re not supposed to be cashed. Lynn said on the back of the check in the upper left hand corner on Judge Bradley’s checks there are numbers that go across and we understand and were told it was a teller override. (Rita said) I told her that was not a teller override and Lynn said, I spoke to Ruth Jordan and she told me that it was a teller override.
Kirby said she was in the room when Simonds asked Doss who she gave the checks to. “Doss told Bill she gave the checks to Stookey who is Mark Thomason’s Attorney. At that point Bill looked at her and said, “you did what?” She said it’s open records and I gave them to Stookey. She said it’s no different than me giving a phone number to an attorney without asking if she could give the number out. Bill said that ain’t quite the same thing.”
Kirby implied throughout the interview that she feels that Doss shares county information with Thomason.
Did Ruth Jordan tell Lynn Doss that the checks appeared to have been cashed because of the numbers on the back of the check? Jordan is the Blue Ridge Branch Manager of Community & Southern Bank.
DA Investigators O’Dell and Arp interviewed Jordan. Jordan immediately let them know she could not answer questions for the bank but she could talk about procedural issues.
If we show you the back of the check could you tell us if it’s a teller override?
Jordan, “You would not be able to tell anything about the back of the check, I think that is the whole issue somebody doesn’t understand.”
So you couldn’t look at the back of the check and tell if it’s a teller override?
Jordan, “This is what I told everyone I did have a conversation with but I have not had a conversation with any attorney.”
So you haven’t talked with Miss Doss?
Jordan, “Concerning the back of the check in question, “this is a routing number, that is all that is.”
Investigator Odell, is there anything on the back of the check that you can tell that it’s been
cashed, deposited, whatever….?
“Procedural-wise, as far as Community and Southern’s bank policy, a check like that should never be cashed. That’s a business check. It’s a business check. One person does not have ownership of that check. So that check should have been deposited. Now, there is a For Deposit Only here. There is nothing on the back of this check that can tell you the check has been cashed, deposited, you can’t tell anything. There is nothing back there to tell that. It’s a routing number, branch number and teller number.”
Investigator, The only reason you are here is because your name specifically has come up as having a conversation with a certain attorney that has indicated that you were able to tell them from the back of that check. You have not had any conversation with Mrs. Doss regarding any of this?
Any conversation with Mrs. Doss regarding teller overrides? “No”
Jordan, “I have not spoken to Lynn Doss. I will not disclose anyone’s personal information. It’s not going to happen.”
When discussing the subpoena Jordan said, “I was shocked and amazed. I have never gotten a subpoena that was not served by an officer. If a deputy would have showed up with that subpoena it would have been filled out by someone before they got here with it. Generally when I get one on something like that they serve notice and generally they want someone to sign showing I received it. They were here literally wanting us to give them something and I’m like what, we don’t do that. I don’t think they understood. I was shocked that they had what looked like nearly a blank subpoena and I just said I don’t know anything about this. I don’t know what you’re looking for. You’re going to have to give me some information.”
Investigators showed Jordan the check that supposedly had been cashed illegally. Jordan said there was nothing on the check that indicated a teller override or that it had been cashed.
A check when deposited with a teller show the teller’s number so why not just go to the teller and ask if they cashed or deposited the check?
So why did Doss tell Simonds and Kirby that Jordan said the check appeared to be cashed? Who told Thomason the check appeared to be cashed? Remember that is what Thomason said in the email he sent Pickens County Commissioner Rob Jones. The email to Jones was an for an open records request. Who gave Thomason his information?
What about the FBI Investigation? In one witness interview with “Mr. X” he tells Arp and O’Dell that there are two FBI agents doing the investigation. FYN has learned the name of one FBI Agent, Jamie Harter.
Mr. X told Arp and O’Dell the following: Scott Kiker told me that a whistleblower came to Mark Thomason. Kiker would never tell me who the whistleblower was. Only thing Kiker told me was that the whistleblowers had been granted immunity from prosecution. There are two FBI agents.
Kiker said the reason he got involved was he and Thomason had to sign a paper before the FBI would investigate. They had to sign a paper saying that Mark had asked them to come up here. Thomason told Kiker he was afraid to sign it without some legal representation so he requested Scott Kiker to be his legal representation and then he signed the thing and gave it back to the FBI.
So if Scott Kiker is Thomason’s legal counsel concerning the FBI investigation does he know who the whistleblower is? Does he know whom the FBI offered immunity? FYN has reached out to Lynn Doss and Scott Kiker with a list of questions. At the time of this article they have not responded. At the bottom of this article you will see a list of questions we have asked both Doss and Kiker. We will post their answers as soon as they respond.
Remember the attempt to commit identity fraud in the indictment of Thomason. We found something very interesting in the DA’s file. It may be irrelevant but we feel it’s worth mentioning.
In this letter from Assistant District Attorney Chase G. Queen of the Enotah Judicial Circuit, Thomason may have committed identity fraud.
FYN would like to be clear regarding the allegations of “cashed checks” there hasn’t been any proof presented at this time which supports the claims of checks being cashed.
Below is the list of questions for Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss and Fannin County Probate Judge Scott Kiker.
I have reviewed the entire file including listening to all of the witness interviews in the case that was dropped last week against Mark Thomason and Russell Stookey.
- One witness stated that Thomason had to sign a form and send it back to the FBI before they would look into Thomason’s complaint. The witness stated that he (Thomason) brought the paperwork to you and I understand you signed as Thomason’s Attorney. Did you sign a document along with Mark Thomason that was sent back to the FBI?
- Have you spoken to or met with the FBI?
- Have you and Lynn Doss ever spoken with or met with the FBI together?
- Did Lynn Doss tell you she was speaking with the FBI? When was the first time you knew that Lynn Doss was involved with the FBI investigation?
- One witness said that you told him there was a whistleblower at UCBI and the FBI has granted this person immunity from prosecution. How are you aware of this information? Who told you (Mark Thomason, Lynn Doss, FBI…)? Do you know the identity of the whistleblower?
- One witness said that when he confronted you about the whistleblower and UCBI you said it was a rumor Mark Thomason started. Is it a rumor?
- Did you represent Greg Joseph Staffins in a shoplifting case in Union County?
- Does the Fannin County Probate Court have or use investigators?
- Has Mark Thomason ever worked for the Probate Court as an investigator?
- Are you aware that allegedly Mark Thomason went into the Blairsville Wal-Mart and identified himself to Wal-Mart employee Jeff Griffin as an investigator for the Fannin County Probate Court specifically Judge Scott Kiker’s Investigator?
- According to Jeff Griffin, Thomason asked to see Wal-Mart case reports on the shoplifting case against Greg Joseph Staffins. Was your office ever contacted by the Union County DA’s office inquiring about Thomason’s relationship to the Probate Court and yourself?
I am working on an article concerning a possible FBI investigation you discussed in a recent interview. I have listened to the witness interview from the Mark Thomason-Russell Stookey case and have several questions.
- You said you have communicated with the FBI 3 times. Were those phone conversations or meetings?
- Did you provide the FBI with any Fannin County documents?
- At any time did you make the Fannin County Chairman Bill Simonds aware of your involvement with an FBI investigation?
- Who (name) did you talk to at the FBI?
- Did you give the checks in question to Russell Stookey or Mark Thomason?
- Did you contact the FBI first?
- Did Ruth Jordan tell you the numbers on the check showed the checks had been cashed?
- Did you tell Chairman Simonds, with Rita Kirby present, that you gave the checks to Stookey and that Ruth Jordan told you the checks had an override number on them indicating they had been cashed?
- Did you tell Mark Thomason the checks appeared to have been cashed?
- Have you ever had a conversation with Scott Kiker concerning the FBI investigation in this matter?
- Has Scott Kiker or Mark Thomason shared with you the name of the whistleblower?
- Have you signed any paperwork with the FBI?