Attorney pleads guilty to scam

ATLANTA - A Marietta real estate attorney has pleaded guilty to cheating more than 125 investors out of $28 million over a five-year period by promising returns of up to 15 percent by placing their money in real estate financing and development.

U.S. Attorney David E. Nahmias said 48-year-old Robert P. Copeland, who entered the plea in federal court on Monday, raised more than $40 million since 2004 from investors nationwide.

Nahmias said the notes and security deeds Copeland furnished investors were almost all bogus. He said Copeland could receive a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when he is sentenced July 10.

The government has already seized or frozen numerous assets relating to the scheme.

Attorneys: Whistleblower faked warning

SAVANNAH - Attorneys for Imperial Sugar said a whistleblower faked a report that said he warned company executives of explosive dust hazards days before a deadly blast at the company's sugar refinery near Savannah.

Imperial Sugar attorneys filed a motion Monday asking a Chatham County judge to throw out testimony by former Imperial executive Graham H. Graham in civil suits against the company.

Graham testified in a deposition that he sent a report the week of Jan. 20, 2008, to company executives warning that the Georgia refinery faced 'a disaster such as an explosion' if safety improvements weren't made.

Imperial Sugar attorneys said computer forensics experts determined the report was created on Graham's laptop three days after the Feb. 7, 2008, explosion, which killed 14 people.

Cagle discusses dropping out of governor's race

ATLANTA - Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle raised eyebrows when he said mounting back problems forced him to drop out of the 2010 governor's race but that he still felt healthy enough to run for re-election to his current post.

The Republican said comparing the two contests is like comparing 'apples and oranges.' The governor's race is already under way and could take a $10 million war chest.

The campaign for Georgia's No. 2 job may not begin in earnest until next year - and could cost significantly less.

Cagle said he decided to drop out of the race after roaming the grounds of Augusta National with his family last week. He said he suffers from growing numbness in his left arm and the possibility of paralysis.

He said the pain 'never goes away. It only worsens. Even when I lay down.'

Apartment fire displaces 27

MARIETTA - An apartment fire in Marietta damaged 12 housing units and displaced eight families.

Cobb County Fire Lt. Dan Dupree said the Sunday night blaze engulfed the length of a building about 7:45 p.m. at the River Heights Apartment Homes near Johnson's Ferry Road.

Terri Thornton, a spokeswoman for the apartment, said everyone affected was relocated to new units in the complex.

Dupree said the blaze stretched across the nearly 150-foot long building in the attic above the sprinkler system.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.