Second defendant testifies in federal land fraud trial

Second defendant testifies in federal land fraud trial

April 19th, 2013 by Todd South in Local Regional News

A 40-year-old Marion County man testified in his federal fraud trial this week that he only collected paperwork for loans and had no authority to approve or deny applications that prosecutors say are evidence of a conspiracy.

Paul Gott III testified Wednesday, the sixth day of the trial. He and Josh Dobson, 35, are being tried on money laundering and wire fraud charges in a $45 million land deal in Dade County, Ga.

Gott's attorney, John McDougal, had his client explain his work with Southern Group, the "umbrella entity" run by Dobson, his father and Travis Shields, according to testimony.

Prosecutors Perry Piper and John MacCoon allege that the pair schemed to have buyers illegally finance down payments from money sent to them through Southern Group.

The motivation was to sell undeveloped lots at the 2,500-acre land development The Preserve near Rising Fawn, Ga.

Prosecutors claim Dobson promised no-money-down deals in which Southern Group would pay the monthly mortgage for three years and then buy back the property. The "buyers" who signed on their credit for the land would get up to $20,000.

But Dobson testified Tuesday it was clearly explained to customers that the buyback was an option. He said bank loan officers, such as Sam Moody at Cornerstone Community Bank, approved the loans and were copied on letters clarifying the terms sent to buyers.

Gott testified Wednesday that he simply collected paperwork for loan applications and had no approval authority.

McDougal focused on the Patricia Daniels case presented to the jury last week. She had bought parcels of land at The Preserve but didn't have the money for a down payment.

Gott said she had $500,000 in her retirement account and $18,000 in checking. But the money in her checking account wouldn't cover the required $67,000 down payment on the property.

Gott testified that he doubted she would be approved, but it was just his job to submit.

But Moody approved the loan.

Daniels testified that a check for the $67,000 in her name was sent from Southern Group to her broker, Jim Tobin. She signed over the check to the bank, which then sent the full mortgage amount to Southern Group.

Moody, Daniels and Tobin have not been charged in the conspiracy.

The trial resumes today in U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier's courtroom.

Contact staff writer Todd South at 423-757-6347 or tsouth@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.