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Accountant convicted of theft
Jury finds guilt on 11 charges

A local accountant awaits sentencing next month after he was convicted last week on nearly a dozen theft charges.

Warren H. Pennington, 62, of Dawsonville was found guilty of five felony counts of theft by conversion and six felony counts of theft by taking.

Pennington was found not guilty on a single theft by taking charge.

The jury deliberated for about three hours before reaching its verdict Thursday.

Prosecutors argued that Pennington was responsible for funneling into his personal and business accounts thousands of dollars clients had placed in escrow to pay payroll taxes.

Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh was pleased with the jury's decision.

"The Dawson County Sheriff's Office Criminal Investigation Division, Assistant District Attorney J.D. Hart and her support staff did an excellent job preparing and presenting this criminal action," Darragh said.

"It was a very involved case, which entailed many long hours of investigation and preparation."

The verdict followed several days of testimony from witnesses, who ranged from former employees and clients to experts in forensic accounting. Pennington did not take the stand in his defense.

Vivian Miles, Pennington's former office manager who pleaded guilty earlier this year to taking $90,000 from the accounting firm, testified against him.

During her testimony, Miles claimed the two had been involved in a sexual relationship for many years. Both were married at the time.

Miles also said she helped Pennington move money from various accounts to cover discrepancies when client tax payments were due.

Investigators began to look into Pennington after Miles was arrested in 2008.

Pennington's attorney, Brett Turner, told the jury his client could have been negligent in his operational practices, but his actions were done without "any criminal intent."

"He could have done things different, could have done things better," said Turner, who argued that the case was better suited for civil court.

Turner filed a motion for a new trial on Friday.

Pennington was initially arrested in July 2008 on a single theft by conversion charge. Three months later, he was charged with nine additional theft counts.

Pennington was acquitted of the first charge, which reportedly involved transferring more than $60,000 from a client's escrow account to pay other expenses.

A judge ruled Pennington had not violated any laws at that time because as a qualified intermediary for a 1031 tax exchange, the funds in question were considered a loan agreed to be repaid in a promissory note.

The charges of which Pennington was convicted did not involve a 1031 tax exchange, according to testimony.

Sentencing is scheduled for the first week of January.