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Man evicted, supposedly disabled and now indicted

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A wheelchair-bound Howard Graber gained public sympathy two years ago when law enforcement was forced to evict him and his wife from their Duluth home, given that Graber's disability allegedly caused him to lose his tech job, and subsequently the home.

Sympathies fizzled when Graber won a dancing competition in downtown Atlanta three months later, prompting Gwinnett authorities to open an investigation.

That probe recently led to an indictment against Graber and two others, including an Alpharetta chiropractor, landing all three in the Gwinnett County Jail this week.

Graber, 44, was indicted last month on seven counts of residential mortgage fraud and three counts of first-degree forgery, all felonies.

An investigation by the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department, whose SWAT team evicted Graber and his wife from their Davenport Park Lane home, revealed that he'd submitted numerous fraudulent mortgage documents to the Gwinnett County registrar of deeds concerning that property, officials said. One document states that a $175,000 loan on the home had been "fully paid and satisfied," records show.

District Attorney Danny Porter said the documents were filed under false representations that Graber had the authority to sign for M&T Bank, the lien holder.

"Obviously, he did not," Porter said.

Porter's office had been investigating the case since June, following the Sheriff's Department probe. Graber's wife is not a suspect in the more recent case, officials said.

Graber's attorney, John Petrey, said prosecutors consented to a $22,000 bond for Graber on Wednesday, following his arrest Saturday, but that bond had not been posted. Petrey said his client remains in ill health and was being held in sick bay at the Gwinnett County Jail.

"I would hope he will get bond very soon," Petrey said, "and then we can begin to work in earnest on his case."

The Grabers' case gained public sympathy when friends told media the couple had fallen on hard times only when Howard Graber suffered a stroke and was forced to quit a lucrative career in software sales.

Their reluctance to leave the home triggered a four-hour SWAT standoff. Graber's wife, Nova Lee, was Tasered, and both were forcibly removed.

Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Sean Smith said this week his department's probe found that the couple were lawfully removed.

Three months after the eviction, Sheriff's Department officials received tips from attendees of a massive "Get Motivated" seminar at the Georgia Dome, where Graber won a dance-off competition and a trip to Disney World, as shown in a video that surfaced on YouTube, officials said.

Alpharetta chiropractor Nelson Bulmash and his wife, Susan, were indicted along with Graber on forgery charges. Smith said they are all acquainted.

Records in the indictment list Nelson Bulmash as the "grantor" in real estate transactions involving the Grabers' Duluth home. Graber signed some documents as the "authorized agent" of the bank. Bulmash and his wife signed the documents as official witnesses, records show.

Attorney Lawrence Zimmerman, who represents Susan Bulmash, would not elaborate on the couple's alleged dealings with Graber, or how they had come to know him.

Bulmash and her husband "are innocent, and at some point, that will be shown," Zimmerman said Thursday. "They are not guilty of anything."

Lynn Davis, a coordinator with the Homeless Network of metro Atlanta, said the Grabers had been "floating all over the place" since the eviction. Davis said Graber is partially blind, heavily medicated and falls frequently, which has kept him from steady employment.

Davis insists Graber did not intentionally try to deceive or defraud the county or the bank. The Grabers' plight, she said, is indicative of a broader problem of unscrupulous mortgage companies and flawed foreclosure practices.

"Should these people be going to jail? I don't think so," Davis said. "This gets into what's moral and what's not."

As for the dancing competition, Davis said Graber was merely inspired by the seminar.

"If they feel good enough in their minds that they can get up and dance, then God bless them -- let them dance," Davis said. "He's trying to get his strength back -- he's trying."

Graber and his wife face misdemeanor charges of police obstruction, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in the 2010 eviction situation. Records show a trial in that case is pending.

Comments

Sthrnldy 2 years, 3 months ago

Bless their hearts, Occupy Gwinnett needs to help these poor victims.

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