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."  



Grand Jury No Bills And True Bills

Here are the No Bills and True Bills from the Hamilton County Grand Jury for April 18: No Bills: BOYKIN, ANTRANIECE MAXCINE B 23 F 0 1 GS 1657169 POSS. OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE FOR RESALE CALHOUN, BRANDON LOVELACE B 30 M 0 1 GS 1657175 POSS. OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE FOR RESALE CALHOUN, BRANDON LOVELACE B 30 M 0 1 GS 1657174 POSS. OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE FOR RESALE PRICE, ... (click for more)

Body Discovered Of Homicide Victim Thomas Rogers In Bledsoe County

The body has been discovered of a man who had been reported missing by his family in Bledsoe County. Authorities called it a homicide and had one suspect, Michaela Sullivan, in custody charged with criminal homicide. Two other suspects were being sought in the death of Thomas Rogers. the body was located north of Big Spring Gap Road on Tuesday. It is not known if ... (click for more)

Pluses And Minuses Of Tennessee's New Opioid Law

It was clear when Governor Haslam announced his TN Together plan in January that lawmakers were going to do something to try to address the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. With the passage of SB 2257/HB 1831, Tennessee now has one of the most comprehensive and restrictive laws of any state.   The Tennessee Medical Association was actively engaged in the process and appreciates ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘We’ll Lose The Senate!’

A guy who I admire and respect wrote me yesterday. He had just read my story defending Bob Corker for honoring “The Code” due to his true friendship with Phil Bredesen. He is also no stranger to my vivid dislike of the Republican choice to replace Corker in the Senate. Marsha Blackburn is no match against Bredesen on any tier and it is clearly the Republican Party itself that has ... (click for more)

Peyton Manning To Be Inducted To Academic All America Hall Of Fame

Legendary Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning will be one of the newest members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America Hall of Fame when the four-person 2018 Class is inducted this summer.   The Academic All-America Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will take place at 7:30 p.m. on June 28 at the CoSIDA and NACDA ... (click for more)

Rahaan Gaulden Ready For 2018 NFL Draft

  Rashaan Gaulden is ready for the next level. His nearly four years at the University of Tennessee have prepared him for the NFL and the former Vol defensive back is expected to hear his name called this weekend at the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. “There’s a relief and a calmness about it all because of all of the hard work I know I put in ... (click for more)