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SAVANNAH — A former Savannah finance company employee has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing more than $1.6 million in forged checks to keep up a gambling habit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

Dean Emerson Flake, 58, was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison on a guilty plea of committing bank fraud in the check-writing scheme, authorities said. He will have 13 months of home confinement following the prison stint, plus three years of supervised release.

A resident of Brooklet near Statesboro, Flake was charged with stealing from a Savannah finance firm at which he worked as an accountant for nearly 35 years by writing checks to himself from his company’s account and forging signatures to do it.

Flake was accused of stealing more than $1.6 million in forged checks and, once arrested, confessed that he undertook the scheme to “feed a gambling addiction,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Southern District of Georgia.

Explaining the stiff prison sentence, U.S. Attorney Bobby Christine said in a statement that Flake had “squandered his opportunity to earn an honest living” and “thus will now dine in a prison cafeteria.”

“Stealing from your own long-time employer displays callous disregard for those who have placed employees in positions of trust,” Christine said.

Authorities did not identify the Savannah company from which Flake stole.

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