Case against ex-Chatham Probate Court clerk sees largest settlement yet

CHATHAM CO., GA (WTOC) - For nearly four years, Kim Birge embezzled and stole more than $750,000 dollars from Chatham County Probate Court accounts while she was the chief clerk.

After pleading guilty to federal mail fraud charges in 2015, the people who Birge stole from have been trying to get their money back.

On Friday the the largest settlement from the case was made in court.

Birge is currently serving a six year sentence in federal prison for stealing money entrusted to the Probate Court. More than 300 times, she deposited money sent to the Probate Court into the Court's bank accounts and then wrote checks payable to cash for her own personal benefit.

On Friday in state court one of Birge's victims, Cherlyn Haynes, settled with Chatham County and First Chatham Bank to get the money taken from them nearly six years ago.

That amount was for nearly $215,000. Haynes and her family initially entrusted that money to the Probate Court following the sale of their mother's home.

This will be the largest settlement out of all the victims.

"Very pleased that the clients are going to end up getting the money back that was taken from them, plus a little bit of attorney's fees. And really, a lot of credit goes to the bank that was holding some of the money, and to the County and the County Commission for stepping up to the plate and doing right by way of some of their citizens," said Savannah lawyer Will Claiborne, who is representing Haynes.

Claiborne added, "I think everybody recognized that our clients were purely innocent victims who sold a house, put it with the Probate Court, and then got their money stolen. So I think there was a lot of effort and a lot of credit on all sides to get it resolved here today."

Haynes' other attorney, Atlanta-based Ryan Locke, said the settlement was a promise delivered.

"I remember when I drove to their house and we sat down at the kitchen table. She told me, I feel like I let my family down. And this money, I don't know if I'll ever see it. And it was my mother's legacy to give to us. Sitting at that kitchen table, I looked her in the eye and I said, you will get it back, and we will get it back for you," Locke said.

Not all of the cases are settled yet. A settlement conference to resolve the pending cases is set for next Friday.

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