JASPER, Ga. - A disgraced attorney in Pickens County admitted stealing more than one million dollars from his clients, blaming his crimes on "greed and stupidity."
Authorities say Mark Miller's victims are simple country folks who trusted him with their financial future. Instead, he stole their money and vacationed at Disney World.
"It's a slap in the face," pointed out Pickens County District Attorney Alison Sosebee. "There is no way that he would have been able to afford the lifestyle he lived without the money that he had taken from his clients."
For years Mark Miller's law office was a familiar landmark in the heart of downtown Jasper. One of his clients was Katie Parker, whose family worked long, difficult hours managing a convenience store. When they died they left Katie with a trust fund of at least $1 million.
But when she couldn't get Miller to explain how much was in the fund, she took him to court and filed a criminal complaint.
That's when Miller's secret spending finally came to light.
He lived in an $800,000 home, his Facebook page filled with pictures of him vacationing at Disney World and other places. Miller pled guilty to thirteen counts of theft by deception, theft by taking, theft by conversion and financial transaction card fraud. District Attorney Sosebee said Miller told the court he spent as much as $40,000 of clients' money just on those trips to Disney World, blaming "greed, stupidity and wanting to live a lavish lifestyle."
Miller's clients were counting on those funds. Katie Parker lives in an aging ranch house with window AC units fighting a losing battle with the Georgia summers.
"She's certainly not living in an 800-thousand dollar home and taking trips to Disney Land," Sosebee complained.
As part of his guilty plea, Miller agreed to sell his expensive home and Main Street office and use most of the money to pay the $1.3 million dollars owed to his victims. Almost all of that restitution -- $1 million -- will go to Katie Parker.
Miller was sentenced to 40 years, five to serve in state prison.
But the day after his guilty plea, the disgraced attorney who partly blamed his crimes on stupidity called his wife from the Pickens County jail. He asked her to help pull some strings to get him favorable treatment in the state prison system. He either did not notice, or did not care about the warning given to callers at the jail:
All calls are recorded.
"It is a very political animal so I need you to make a very concerted effort to contact and make an appointment to go see David Ralston," Miller can be heard asking his wife Leslie.
David Ralston is a fellow North Georgia attorney who also happens to be the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives.
Miller gives his wife specific instructions. Here's what he told her:
"What we want David to do is write a letter, to DOC and the Parole Board saying I'm interested in Mark Miller, as a professional colleague of mine, etc. if you would be informed of what's going on with him. That will flag me in DOC jargon and I will get better treatment and better placement and better parole opportunities and everything else because it is so political."
His wife Leslie agreed to Miller's idea, but she needn't bother. A spokesman for Ralston told the FOX 5 I-Team "The Speaker has not spoken with Mr. Miller or his spouse. Further, the Speaker has not had -- and will not have -- any involvement whatsoever with this matter."
"I don't know how you could get VIP treatment in prison, but I guess if anyone could try it would be him," Captain April Killian commented. "I don't want to call the man stupid because he's actually very intelligent. But I definitely think he made one more wrong decision."
DA Sosebee specifically thanked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation forensic auditor Lacra Blackwell and the Pickens County Sheriff's Department for following the money and help prove the massive theft case.
Miller was also a high-ranking officer in the Lion's Club International. Following his arrest, the charity booted him from their membership. Miller must also perform 500 hours of community service, but Judge Richard Winegarden specifically wrote into his sentence those hours could not be spent at the Lion's Club.