Dobson Given 10 Years, 6 Months, Gott 6 years, 3 Months In Dade County Land Fraud

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Federal Judge Curtis Collier on Thursday sentenced Josh Dobson to 10 years and six months in federal prison and Paul Gott to six years and three months in connection with a Dade County, Ga., land fraud.

The judge denied a request that both men be allowed to stay out of prison during appeal. He directed them to self-report to prison by July 28. Judge Collier said he did not find an issue that was likely to result in a reversal of the jury convictions.

Prosecutors said banks and individuals were defrauded of some $44 million in connection with The Preserve at Johnson's Crook.

The sentencing range for the 36-year-old Dobson was initially 151-178 months, but Judge Collier granted a reduction based on issues surrounding the actual loss amount. That cut it to 108-135 months.

Attorney Jerry Summers requested that the sentence be kept under 10 years and one month, saying Dobson would likely not be able to qualify for a federal minimum-security "camp" with that high a sentence.

Attorney John McDougal also requested that Gott, 40, be sent to a "camp" rather than prison with hardened criminals.

Dobson and Gott, who have maintained their innocence, did not make statements to the judge at the sentencing. They earlier sent letters.

Prosecutor Perry Piper asked for "a serious sentence," saying, "Many people suffered tremendous financial hardship as a result of the actions here."

He said the Southern Land Company made down payments and initial mortgages for individuals who agreed to sign up for lots that were greatly overpriced. He said the sales were mainly to individuals in far-off states "because people here knew what those lots were worth."

Dobson and Gott were ordered to pay almost $3.1 million in restitution to affected banks.

At the sentencing were the other two officers of Southern Land Company - Tommy Dobson, father of Josh Dobson, and Travis Shields, brother-in-law of Josh Dobson. They have not been charged in the fraud.

Gott handled loans for the land company as an independent contractor, but prosecutors said he was aware of the deception involved in the deals.

It was argued that both men had no prior criminal record, but Judge Collier said that is often the case with white-collar crime.

Dobson's attorney said he has children ages 10 and eight and his wife is a school teacher.

The Georgia Land Trust has wound up with 1,800 acres at the former Preserve property. Trust officials indicated they are considering selling it to a developer who would place a conservation easement on part of the scenic and historic property at the side and base of Lookout Mountain at Rising Fawn, Ga.

The ruling came on the sixth day of the sentencing over a period of several weeks.

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