Former Adult Literacy Barrow executive director Ron Saunders on Wednesday pled guilty to and was sentenced to two years in prison and an additional eight on probation for stealing $121,685 from the organization over a nearly two-year period between Aug. 13, 2014 and July 19 of last year.

Saunders, also the former superintendent of the Barrow County School System, must pay full restitution of the embezzled funds within two years of his release from confinement. He has agreed to waive his Fourth Amendment rights, which will permit searches of his home without requirement of a warran,t and he will have to undergo a mental health evaluation and random drug and alcohol screenings.

About 70 people packed a courtroom at the Barrow County Courthouse on Wednesday morning to hear testimony from state and defense witnesses.

Three Adult Literacy Barrow Board of Directors members — chair Susan Wages, treasurer Sandra Mingus and Dean Lisa Maloof of Lanier Technical College’s Barrow campus — testified that Saunders forged their signatures on roughly 780 checks without their knowledge and asked Piedmont Judicial Circuit Court Judge David Motes to sentence him to prison.

Saunders testified on his behalf, apologizing for his actions and asking the judge to grant him alternative sentencing. He said a gambling addiction led him to empty his life’s savings as well as money from his family members’ bank accounts before taking money from the organization, and that he contemplated and attempted suicide.

Four witnesses on Saunders’ behalf, including Winder City Councilman Ridley Parrish, asked for a more lenient sentence.

As Motes issued his sentence, Saunders looked straight ahead, occasionally glancing down. He was taken into custody immediately following the sentence.

This story will be updated. See the March 1 issue of the Barrow News-Journal for more details.

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