All totaled, Sherri Whitlock Hines, a former bank manager for a Villa Rica branch of Community and Southern Bank, is alleged to have stolen from bank customers in Bartow, Carroll and Paulding counties between March 2010 and April 2011.
Hines, 40, of Villa Rica, has been charged with seven counts of theft by taking and five counts of identity fraud, and was present with several family members at the trial presided over by Superior Court Judge John Simpson.
Hines was arrested after employees of Community and Southern Bank discovered that she was "involved in some possible fraudulent withdrawals from customer accounts, loan creations and forgeries without their knowledge while she was employed at the bank," according to the incident report filed by Det. Eddie Thompson.
In his opening statement, Hines' legal counsel, Villa Rica attorney Mac Pilgrim, said his client was used as a "fall guy" for the bank's mistake.
"The bank led the investigation, not the state," he said. "And eyes have only been turned to her. Not to anyone else. No one else has been arrested or charged."
Pilgrim said Hines was an "easy choice" to take the blame for the bank's mistakes because she had been recently terminated.
"She was fired for signing a check that was not hers, but one that she was the guarantor on," he said. "It was a check of her grandmother's, who had recently passed away."
Pilgrim blamed the whole ordeal on an "internal conspiracy" within the bank and said that the case went in Hines' favor when it came to getting unemployment benefits.
"She was able to get those unemployment benefits, so she has already won that side of it," he said.
The state, represented by Assistant District Attorney Vincent Faucette, called several witnesses to the stand, mostly Community and Southern Bank employees.
Included in the witnesses were the branch manager of Hines' branch at the time of the alleged incident, a human resources representative who went through and delivered to auditors the contents of Hines' desk and the auditing manager, who said the audit that began the investigation (of Hines' deceased grandmother's checks) was never brought to completion.
"So the audit that began this whole thing was never carried out because her grandmother was dead and couldn't identify her signature?" Pilgrim asked the witness, to which she said, "Yes."