JASPER, Ga. -
Expensive rides. Fancy vacations. And a surprise political contribution all paid for, prosecutors say, with money a Jasper attorney stole from his clients.
The case against attorney Mark Miller prompted his other clients to check their records, too, in what authorities said is the biggest white collar crime case ever to hit Pickens County.
According to the indictment, Miller stole at least $1.7 million from hard-working people who put their trust in a man who lived among them for decades, a supposed community leader who held high office in the world's largest service club organization.
On Mark Miller's public Facebook Page -- now part of a criminal case file -- the Jasper attorney sure seemed to be enjoying himself. He especially liked Disney World. In fact, according to prosecutors, Miller spent $31,661 on various Disney World trips, money they say he should have been protecting for Katie Parker.
Her mother Paulette and her uncle David Kent spent years working long hours at a convenience store they owned outside Jasper. The siblings eventually sold it for $1.7 million, hiring attorney Mark Miller to handle the money.
When David died, he left his share of the money to his sister Paulette. And when she died of breast cancer soon after, all that money was supposed to go to her only child Katie.
Only trouble: Katie told the court attorney Miller would never give her an accounting of how much money was really left.
"It just kind of baffles me to see somebody that would do that," admitted Pickens County Sheriff's Department Captain Kris Stancil.
When Miller would not turn over financial documents in Katie's civil case, a judge threw him in jail on contempt charges. A few days later, a grand jury indicted him on 48 counts involving theft, identify fraud and racketeering. He's being held without bond.
Miller was active in many causes around Pickens County. He was also the chairman of the Lion's Club Council of Governors, among many other roles. In fact, his public Facebook page was filled with Lions Club events and trips. Investigators met this week with Lion's Club officials to see whether Miller wrongly gave any money to them.
So far, prosecutors say they've identified $665,000 Miller misspent from Katie Parker's inheritance, including $26,118 at a car dealership, $47,462 at an RV dealership, and one surprise political contribution: a $1000 contribution to Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential campaign.
"Really?" asked a shocked Perry Parker, Katie's father. "That's deep."
Miller told the Pickens County Progress newspaper that he was "blown away by the events" and predicted he'd be vindicated of all charges. His beloved Lions Club isn't waiting for the trial. They kicked him out immediately after the indictment because they say members must have a good reputation in their community.
Sheriff's investigators said Miller also opened a credit card account in the name of another client, running up $20,000 in charges and then not paying it off. The client didn't realize it until he checked his credit report years later. He contacted sheriff's investigators. They fear the list doesn't end there.
"If they've ever had Mr. Miller as their attorney, we're asking them to go have a credit history ran," stressed Captain Stancil. "Go through and check. If you've had your estate managed and you have access to some of those accounts take a look and make sure what's supposed to be in those accounts is there. If not, then we're asking for everyone to give us a call."
Katie Parker did not want to talk to us on camera about her case. She's unable to work, instead caring for her father.
The two live in an aging ranch house several miles outside of Jasper, window AC units working overtime to keep it cool for Perry who suffers from severe back pain. The two survive on his Social Security benefits and rent payments from another convenience store in the community.
"It takes everything we got to get those bills paid for," Perry Parker complained.
"What would Katie's life be like with that money now?" I asked.
"She would be a lot better off than what she is," he replied. "She wouldn't have to depend on me for other things. I would go to my grave knowing she's taken care of. But as it stands right now, there's no way I can die in peace."
Lion's Club International issued this statement: "(The club) continues to monitor the situation with Mark Miller's indictment and is conducting a thorough internal investigation to ensure the integrity of financial resources and accounting practices for programs in which Mr. Miller was responsible or had spending authority."