Rhonda Lea Byrd trial (copy)

Rhonda Lea Byrd talks with her attorney, Bill Speaks, in court on March 25. Byrd was sentenced to a minimum of seven years and eight months to 10 years in prison Tuesday after being convicted of embezzlement.

A Davidson County woman was sentenced to prison Tuesday after a jury convicted her of three counts of embezzlement, authorities said.

Rhonda Lea Byrd, 59, was accused of embezzling $974,766 from Slate Marketing Inc. from January 1999 to April 2008, the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release about the case. Indictments also alleged that Byrd, as an employee responsible for handling company finances, stole money from Slate Retail Systems Inc. and Slate Packaging Inc.

Bobby Slate, a Lewisville businessman, owned the companies. Byrd, who testified Monday in her own defense, worked for 17 years as a bookkeeper for his businesses.

Last week, Prosecutor Scott Harkey told the jury that Byrd embezzled the money by falsifying payments, writing herself checks and using her access to the company payroll system to pay herself extra money.

After her trial, Byrd pleaded guilty to two additional counts of embezzlement and one count of conspiracy against La Casa Real Estate and Investment LLC, another Slate-owned business, the district attorney’s office said.

Judge Eric Morgan of Forsyth Superior Court sentenced Byrd to serve a minimum of seven years and eight months to 10 years in prison, the district attorney’s office said.

Morgan also ordered Byrd to pay $1.425 million in restitution.

"Mrs. Byrd is disappointed in the jury's verdict," her defense attorney, Bill Speaks of Winston-Salem, said in a statement. "She is resigned to finishing her sentence and returning to her family."

Byrd was accused of writing herself checks and recording them in the Peachtree Accounting System to appear like legitimate business expenses, the district attorney’s office said. She was accused of writing checks payable to “cash” and to herself for no legitimate business purpose, the district attorney’s office said.

Byrd also was accused of allowing excessive and unauthorized payroll payments to herself and deleting the transactions or masquerading them as loans from the company, the district attorney’s office said.

The district attorney’s office also provided these details on the accusations against Byrd:

  • Byrd was accused of embezzling $39,555 from Slate Retails Systems, Inc. between April 2001 and August 2002, by writing herself checks and recording them in the Peachtree Accounting System to appear like legitimate business expenses.
  • Byrd was accused of embezzling $30,335 from Slate Packaging Inc. between January 2001 and December 2007, by writing herself checks and recording them in the Peachtree Accounting System to appear like legitimate business expenses.
  • Byrd was accused of embezzling $380,484 from La Casa Real Estate and Investment LLC between December 2005 and January 2008, by writing herself checks that were not for any legitimate business purpose, conspiring with Charles D. Washington of Winston-Salem and writing company checks for Washington’s personal benefit and purchasing herself a beach home in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

A federal lawsuit filed by Bobby Slate alleged that Byrd and Washington, who also worked for Slate, together stole $3 million from Slate and Slate Enterprises. A trial date for Washington hasn’t been scheduled.

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jhinton@wsjournal.com 336-727-7299 @jhintonWSJ

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