FBI Agent Testifying At Fraud Case Sentencing Says Current Dade County Magistrate Was Tied In With Dobsons; Prosecutor Says Gott Should Get 78-97 Months

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

An FBI agent testifying Wednesday at a sentencing in the Southern Group fraud case said current Dade County Chief Magistrate Joel E. McCormick was tied in with the firm.

Agt. Stan Ruffin said McCormick was instrumental in selling Lookout Mountain property near Rising Fawn, Ga., from Eugene Johnson to the Dobson family, which began to develop it under the name The Preserve.

He said McCormick was also listed among the officers of the Southern Group in connection with a $1.25 million loan the group took out. He said McCormick made some payments toward repaying that loan.

Under questioning about alleged "conflicts of interest" the current magistrate had at Southern Group, the agent said McCormick appraised some of the lots at The Preserve.

Prosecutor Perry Piper asked, "Aren't such appraisals suppose to be at arm's length?"

Agt. Ruffin replied, "Absolutely. He was a business partner and he was doing appraisals on the early lots."

The testimony was during the continuation of a lengthy sentencing hearing conducted by Judge Curtis Collier for Josh Dobson and Paul Gott.   

Prosecutors said the total amount of the loss in the land fraud was $40 million.

The loss amount in the case for sentencing consideration has been limited to 108 cases in which the government said the Southern Group made down payments for buyers. That amount is around $13 million.

The government has reduced the loss amount for sentencing to $11.8 million after the defense raised certain objections, including the fact that much of the land has been transferred to the Georgia Land Trust.

Agt. Ruffin said the Southern Group not only made down payments for "buyers," but also paid some of their mortgage payments. He said, "The fraud began to unravel when they stopped making some of the mortgage payments."

He said that caused officials of Cornerstone Bank to begin asking questions about how the deals were structured.

Agt. Ruffin was the final witness for the government at the sentencing, then arguments began before the judge.

Prosecutor Piper said the sentencing range for Gott, who was involved in setting up financing for the deals, should be 78-97 months.

Attorney John McDougal sought a lesser sentence, saying Gott was not part of Southern Group. He said the "plan was devised by Josh and Tommy Dobson, Travis Shields and their attorney." Tommy Dobson and Shields have not been charged.

A sentencing range for Dobson will be taken up when the case reconvenes.

Prosecutor Piper said, "This was a scam from the start. They were bilking the banks out of tens of millions of dollars. All that money was going into Southern's pockets."

He said the deal that Southern had with Eugene Johnson was that they would purchase the land piece by piece as they made sales. He said, "Their risk was truly minimal. The only risk they had was were they are sitting today - before someone wearing a black robe."  


Robber Hits Collegedale Credit Union

A robber struck at the Collegedale Credit Union on University Drive on Thursday afternoon. Police said a man entered the credit union about 2:30 p.m. He handed over a note that demanded money. The man said he had a gun, but did not display one. He left on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash. The robber was described as a white male around 5'11". (click for more)

Fort Oglethorpe Arrest Report For July 25-31

Here is the Fort Oglethorpe arrest report for July 25-31: John Alan Suggs, 35, of 222 South Center Street, Rossville was arrested July 29 on charges of giving false name and false information to police and theft by shoplifting. Jennifer Lynn Joy, 37, 429 Guyler Street, Ringgold was arrested July 28 on a charge of theft by taking. Ronald Jason Hendricks, 36, of 1313 ... (click for more)

Curtis Adams: Beck, Mackey Should Be Considered For County Commission Leadership

Just think about this;  a person highly qualified applying for a job.  As he is just about finished filling out his papers for his interview, he sees at the bottom there is a place for him to check Democrat or Republican.  He would think, “if I mark the wrong one I may not get the job.” Being a real leader requires honesty, integrity, and, most importantly, fairness. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Orchids And Onions

With record low temperatures being recorded around the South, I didn’t know what I’d find in my garden on the first day of August but – sure enough -- there is a profusion of orchids and onions. The start of college football will be later this month and, with the chilly mornings, fall practice is a far cry from what it will be when the sweltering heat comes back next week. Here’s ... (click for more)

Jones, Vols Meet The Press A Day Before Fall Football Begins

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- What did  Butch Jones  have to say about Tennessee’s 2014 football team on the eve of the Vols' first practice? Find out in this transcript of Thursday’s press conference:  HEAD COACH BUTCH JONES (Opening Statement) "It's great to see everyone, and I hope everyone had a great summer. We will hold an open practice on Saturday ... (click for more)

Jane Webb Is A Fun-Loving Runner At Heart

Jane Webb isn’t one of those people who started running when she was a kid, but she loves the benefits since she restarted her running career about four years ago. She’s all about being active and doing things that are good for you,   but long-distance running never really captured her attention and she’s found that she can receive the same payoff by covering ... (click for more)