COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – Earlier today, June 14, the second to last co-defendant in a scheme to steal more than a million dollars in public funds appeared in front of Federal Judge Clay Land.
News 3 was the only media in the court room when Dereen Porch, 44, was sentenced to 21 months in prison on multiple counts of fraud, and ordered to pay more than $300,000 in restitution for her role in two separate crimes.
She pleaded guilty last year, and admitted to cashing stolen checks on behalf of Superior Court Deputy Clerk Willie Demps. She and her husband, Curtis Porch, also pleaded guilty in a separate scheme to steal coronavirus relief money.
Porch’s Attorney Ralston Jarrett asked for a lesser sentence due to Porch’s poor health and what he describes as extenuating circumstances that surrounded her involvement in the scheme. Porch’s doctor listed numerous health conditions to take into consideration during her sentencing, saying most prisons are not prepared to accommodate her medical needs.
Porch spoke on the conditions surrounding her involvement in the fraud scheme run through the Muscogee County Court Clerk’s office, saying her trust in Demps ultimately betrayed her.
“I have known him since I was 16 years old, he took me out of a very abusive environment I was in… I came from sexual abuse and when I met Mr. Demps and his wife, they took me in and got me off the street… because of that I always felt obligated to him, and he always made me feel like I owed him. He reminds me constantly how he changed my life, and how I would not be who I am without him,” Porch said in court.
Long time friend of Porch’s Jamysa Hutchinson testified to her character saying, “I’ve watched her fight to reclaim her life from being abused from her biological father, from the things that happened with her biological mother… She did not allow what happened to her define her life. I’ve never known her to be malice, or deliberately get into trouble.”
Porch was sentenced to pay $230,300 in restitution for wire fraud and theft of government property. In addition to this, she was ordered to pay $72,842 in restitution to the Muscogee County Superior Court Clerk’s Office for the scheme masterminded by Demps.
“I was a little disappointed after advocating my client and getting to know her over the year and the family, I was a little disappointed that she has to go up the road, but we are not finished yet, we plan on filing additional motions…” Jarrett said after the hearing. “As I stated in my argument, you know, trust is a very, it can be a very good thing, but it can also be a very dangerous thing so just be careful on who you trust.”
Prosecutors argued against a lenient sentence, citing Porch’s involvement in the CARES Act fraud scheme.
Six other co-defendants involved in the Demps case say they were in some way coerced or manipulated into following Demps’ directions. Demps was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison earlier this month.
Including Demps, eight individuals were involved in the scheme that stole millions from the county. Porch’s husband, Curtis Porch, still awaits sentencing for his involvement in the Muscogee County Court Clerk’s fraud scheme and the conspiracy to steal CARES act funding.
His sentencing has been rescheduled to later this month.