published Saturday, April 20th, 2013

Land fraud trial wraps up; jury gets case

After 20 witnesses, more than 100 documents and seven days of a federal trial, jurors now will decide whether two Marion County men purposely defrauded investors in a Dade County, Ga., land deal or if the men were developing the site legitimately.

Lawyers finished closing arguments in the money laundering and wire fraud trial of Joshua Dobson, 35, and Paul Gott III, 40, late Friday afternoon. The jury is scheduled to return Monday to begin deliberations.

Prosecutors John MacCoon and Perry Piper showed letters, emails, bank transfers and checks on the overhead projector, connecting money transfers through multiple people to Dobson's company, Southern Group.

"This is really a snapshot of the conspiracy in action," MacCoon told the jury. "It's just plain fraud."

The prosecutors had alleged throughout the trial that the men used multiple schemes to move money from their company to pay down payments for investors who couldn't afford them but who could use their good credit to sign for loans.

The no-money-down deal had Southern Group paying down payments and mortgage payments or moving money through relatives and friends from Southern Group to the investors who then paid the bank, according to court testimony.

The banks then would issue the full sale price to Southern Group, according to court testimony.

Southern Group served as an umbrella organization for other businesses connected to Dobson. Through the companies he made sales of lots at The Preserve near Rising Fawn, Ga., a 2,500-acre development that was planned as a second-home community or vacation cabin rental location similar to those in Gatlinburg, Tenn.

Defense attorneys Chris Townley and John McDougal attacked the selective prosecuting, use of evidence and witnesses called by prosecutors.

Townley told the jury that the prosecutors failed to prove intent. His client, Dobson, had checked out the investment plans and land sales structures with an attorney and advised bankers in letters about what he was doing.

"Was it foolish? Maybe," Townley told the jury. "Was it criminal? No it was not."

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

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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