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Home Builders case ends pre-trial
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In 2009, Andrea Hammond, the Newton County Home Builders Association’s executive officer, was charged with 98 counts of theft by conversion. Late last month, the case against her finally came to a resolution when she accepted a pre-trial diversion in the case.

Hammond was initially accused in late-2009 of using a Newton County Home Builders Association credit card — which she had access to in order to make purchases for the business — to make thousands of dollars in purchases for herself, including dog treats, workout clothes and haircuts. The purchases went on for about 4 1/2 years before they were discovered, according to Covington Police Lt. Paul Dailey in a previous story.

The 98 misdemeanor charges against Hammond were dropped to one felony count of identity fraud, and Hammond pleaded not guilty to the charge in March 2011.

On Aug. 21, Hammond entered into a pre-trial diversion on the charge of theft by conversion, a misdemeanor.

"After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the above-styled case, and in consideration of the above-named defendant’s minimal criminal history or the lack thereof, the State believes that the above-named defendant should be afforded the opportunity to participate in a pre-trial diversion program in lieu of criminal prosecution of the offense listed above," said paperwork from the case. "The above-named defendant hereby admits her guilt with respect to the above-referenced charge and voluntarily agrees to participate in a pre-trial diversion program."

Hammond was ordered to pay $200 in court costs, perform 40 hours of community service and pay restitution to the Home Builders Association in the amount of $405.82.

She had six months to complete the order, and the criminal charges against her would be dismissed, according to court documents.  On Sept. 3, Hammond submitted paperwork showing the completion of the pre-trial diversion. She was required to pay $5 to the Georgia Probation Management office for a new criminal history report before the District Attorney’s Office could dismiss the charges..

"We are glad there is finally closure after almost four years," said Jared Rutberg, who was president of the Home Builders Association when Hammond was charged. "The NCHBA is a victim due to the financial and operational damage. The harassment and negative comments about the association, the Board of Directors, and especially individual board members, when each only wanted accountability and to prevent this happening to another organization, makes each a victim.

"Unfortunately, most impacted were the charities and community-at-large that the HBA supported," continued Rutberg. "Instead of the extensive fundraising and volunteer work historically done to support Relay For Life, college scholarships, local schools and various charities, the HBA had to direct all its efforts to recover from one individual’s actions. At least now we can finally put this behind us and move forward.’’