Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Deal fills Fulton County Superior Court judgeship

Gov. Nathan Deal announced today that he has appointed D. Todd Markle to fill the vacancy in the Superior Court of the Atlanta Judicial Circuit. Markle will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of the Honorable Michael D. Johnson. The appointment takes effect upon swearing-in, which should occur within the next few weeks.

D. Todd Markle, Atlanta – Markle currently serves as executive counsel to Gov. Nathan Deal. Previously, he was a partner with the firm Mabry & McClelland. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Georgia and his law degree from Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He and his wife, Beverly, have two children.

Deal appoints five to public defender standards council

Gov. Nathan Deal today tapped five new members who will join the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council. The Georgia Public Defender Standards Council is a nine-member independent agency within the executive branch of the state government whose mission is to ensure that clients receive adequate and ethical legal representation.

Donna Avans Seagraves
Seagraves has worked as a public defender in Georgia for 24 years. Seagraves received her law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law and went to work with the Legal Aid Office in Athens as an assistant public defender. From there, she moved to the Fulton County Public Defender's Office and and then served as the public defender for Jackson and Barrow counties. Seagraves was appointed circuit public defender for the Piedmont Circuit when the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council was created. She has tried hundreds of criminal cases. She is interested in indigent defense policy, having served as vice president and Indigent Defense Committee member of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, president of the Piedmont Bar Association and secretary of the Georgia Association of Circuit Public Defenders. She and her husband, Brian, live in Athens and have one son.

G.S. “Gator” Hodges
Hodges was elected to the Butts County Commission in 2008. He works for CSX Transportation. Previously, Hodges served the public for 10 years as a police officer with the Bryan County Sheriff's Department and the Henry County Police Department. He grew up in Hinesville and graduated from Bradwell Institute. He attended Georgia Southern University, where he studied Criminal Justice. He is a graduate of the 2007 Leadership Butts County course and was the chairperson of the 2009 class. He is also a graduate of the Georgia Academy for Economic Development. Hodges was appointed by the Georgia Speaker of the House to the Middle Ocmulgee Water Council. He also is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Development for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and is currently in the Leadership Georgia Class of 2010. Most recently, Hodges was named by Georgia Trend Magazine to its "40 Under 40" list in October of 2010. Hodges lives in the Stark community with his wife, Keri, and their son, Noah. Hodges is an active member of Rock Springs Congregational Methodist Church in Milner.

Lamar Paris
Paris is serving his third term as Union County’s sole commissioner. Paris graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s in Business Administration. He is the Immediate State Past President of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia. Paris serves on several local and regional boards and committees. He has also served on the Georgia EPD Watershed Committee and the Senate Local Sales Tax Study Committee and is currently a member of the State Regional Water Council. Paris is a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church of Union County. He and his wife, Dinah, have one daughter, Jessica, who also graduated from the University of Georgia.

Ron Cross
Cross, of Evans, chairs the Columbia County Commission. He graduated high school in Greenville and Anderson Junior College in Anderson, S.C., and he attended Furman University. He moved to Augusta in 1967 to begin work for Smith and Coleman Mechanical Engineers, then became the chief engineer for the Medical College of Georgia. Cross has worked in both residential and commercial construction. In 1982, he started CCI Construction Corporation, a commercial, industrial and institutional construction company. Cross worked at CCI Construction until he was elected to office in 2002. He is currently serving his third term as chairman. Cross has been active in several state and regional initiatives, including: the CSRA Regional Transportation Roundtable Executive Committee as chairman, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia Board of Managers, the Savannah-Upper Ogeechee Regional Water Planning Council as chairman, the Governor's Water Contingency Planning Task Force, the Governor's Energy Council and the Clarks Hill Partnership. Cross and his family are members of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans.

David Sims
Sims is a graduate of the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University, where he served as president of the Student Bar Association. He practiced law in Savannah for 20 years, handling both civil and criminal cases. There, he was president of the Trial Lawyers Club and president of the Savannah Bar Association. Sims worked for 13 years as a claims counsel for Nationwide Insurance in Atlanta before he retired. He is currently of counsel with the Atlanta law firm of Insley and Race and has emeritus status with the State Bar of Georgia and in Vinings.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Former Car Dealer Convicted in Multiple Fraud Schemes

PHILIP SWINDALL, 50, of Duluth, Georgia, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to bank fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: SWINDALL was involved in selling cars in the Atlanta metro area for the last decade, and had been involved in multiple schemes during that period. The first scheme began in April 2004, when SWINDALL was operating Atlanta Chrysler Dodge, an automobile dealership. He applied for and received $8,200,000 in loans and lines of credit from SouthTrust Bank, which is now Wells Fargo Bank, to fund and operate Atlanta Chrysler Dodge. In addition, SWINDALL had a silent business partner, who put up $4.7 million in collateral, including that partner’s $2,300,000 mansion in Colorado.

By the summer of 2005, the bank’s auditors showed SWINDALL was more than $3,500,000 in debt. SWINDALL claimed that most of the debts were due to slow payments from a fleet customer. Ultimately, the auditors determined that the fleet customer had paid SWINDALL, but SWINDALL had not paid the bank. SWINDALL had in fact used the $3,500,000 so he could operate another dealership, pay off his credit cards, and live a high-end lifestyle for himself and his family, including foreign vacations, household expenses, and household employees. The losses to the Colorado business partner and the bank exceeded $3,500,000.

The second scheme began in 2009, when SWINDALL opened another dealership, Auto Tailor, Inc., in Duluth, Georgia. Over the next year, he purchased more than 30 cars from other dealers either on consignment or by sending the dealers insufficient fund checks. He then sold the cars to customers online through E-Bay. The evidence showed that SWINDALL pocketed over $490,000, and never provided the customers with titles to the cars, or paid the other dealers.

In yet a third fraud scheme, in August 2009, SWINDALL engaged in identity theft and used an employee’s name and other personal information to obtain a $175,000 loan from Dealer Service Corporation as part of another business-related transaction designed to ultimately enrich SWINDALL.

SWINDALL was charged in a criminal information in June 2011 on 17 counts of bank fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Today he pleaded guilty to one count each of bank fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. He could receive a maximum sentence of 52 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,500,000. In determining the actual sentence, the court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 21, 2011, at 11 a.m., before United States District Judge Steven C. Jones.

This case is being investigated by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and detectives of the Duluth, Georgia Police Department.

Assistant United States Attorney David Leta is prosecuting the case.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Former Klansman Who Traveled to Georgia for Sex With Two Underage Girls Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison

NEAL RAY SCHMIDT, 59, of St. Louis, Missouri, was sentenced today to serve 20 years in federal prison for seeking to have sex with two teenage girls. SCHMIDT, a retired delivery man and former Grand Dragon for the Missouri chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, had traveled from Missouri to Georgia for what he hoped would be a sexual encounter with two 14 year-old girls he met on-line. Since his arrest in this case, SCHMIDT has been charged with molesting his granddaughter in Missouri and with arranging a similar sexual encounter with an underage girl in Florida.

“This case starkly illustrates how the Internet can expose our children not only to the predator down the street, but also to the would-be molester who lives hundreds of miles away. Thanks to the hard work of one of our local law enforcement partners, this particular offender will now be kept away from any other potential victims for many years to come,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

“I think that it is great that this individual will be off the streets and out of our communities for quite some time. I am very proud of our Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) unit and the professionalism they displayed during this investigation. The teamwork utilized by all the agencies involved proved to be very instrumental in the successful prosecution of this case and is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we work in that capacity,” said Henry County Police Department Chief Keith Nichols.

United States District Court Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., sentenced SCHMIDT to 20 years in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. SCHMIDT will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from custody. SCHMIDT was arrested in June 2010 and pleaded guilty to the charges in April 2011.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: In early 2010, SCHMIDT, while trolling in an on-line forum for kids, met whom he believed to be two 14 year-old girls but who were in fact undercover police officers. The two girls claimed to be friends and explained that they lived near each other in McDonough, Georgia. SCHMIDT and the girls had a series of mundane exchanges until SCHMIDT turned the conversation toward sexual topics. Over the ensuing months, in an effort to groom the girls for an eventual sexual encounter, SCHMIDT sent sexually explicit videos of himself, as well as images and videos of child pornography.

In June 2010, SCHMIDT made arrangements to drive from his home near St. Louis to a motel in McDonough, Georgia, where the two girls were to meet him for their sexual encounter. SCHMIDT was arrested in the parking lot of the motel in McDonough, carrying several guns, Klan paraphernalia, and an assortment of sex toys and supplies.

This case was investigated by the Henry County Police Department, with assistance from the FBI.

Assistant United States Attorney Robert McBurney prosecuted the case.