LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Georgia non-profit that advocates for and assists homeless people is calling on Gwinnett authorities to release a mortgage fraud suspect from jail and drop all charges.
In a letter addressed to Gwinnett County Sheriff Butch Conway, the Homeless Network demands the immediate release of Howard Graber, who has been incarcerated for nearly a month following his indictment on seven counts of residential mortgage fraud and three counts of first-degree forgery.
The group claims Graber is still suffering from a massive stroke and has been "intimidated, bullied and profiled" during run-ins with law enforcement that began with the foreclosure of his Duluth home in August 2010. He's being held on $22,200 bond, following an April 14 arrest.
Lynn Davis, a coordinator with the Homeless Network, said Graber has limited family and no chance at paying his bond. He and his wife had been subsisting on his disability income, moving from apartment to apartment, she said.
"Surely anybody who spends time around this man knows that he has issues," Davis said. "This is a form of abuse."
Sheriff's Department officials declined to comment on the situation.
The Homeless Network, a team of about 25 volunteers who provide transportation, food, clothing and shelter to people across the state, took up the Grabers' cause after their eviction, Davis said.
Davis provided a copy of the April 25 letter this week to the Daily Post, along with an open records request filed by the Homeless Network asking the Sheriff's Department for copies of all documents relevant to the investigation.
Records in ongoing investigations are generally exempt from Georgia's Open Records Act.
Graber's attorney, John Petrey, filed a motion to have the $22,000 bond lowered last week. Graber and two codefendants are scheduled for an arraignment Friday in Gwinnett Superior Court.
Deputies forcibly evicted Graber and his wife, Nova Lee, who was Tasered, from their Davenport Park Lane home in August 2010. The Grabers had fallen months behind on mortgage payments but refused to leave, triggering a four-hour SWAT standoff.
The Grabers 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.
Those sentiments soon fizzled.
Three months after the eviction, Graber won a dancing competition -- and a trip to Disney World -- at an Atlanta seminar, prompting Gwinnett authorities to open an investigation.
That probe recently led to an indictment against Graber and two others -- an Alpharetta chiropractor and his wife. An attorney for the couple, Nelson and Susan Bulmash, would not elaborate on their connection to the Grabers. Both face counts of forgery.
District Attorney Danny Porter said the documents in question were filed under false representations that Graber had the authority to sign for M&T Bank, the lien holder.
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.
Nova Lee Graber has not responded to interview requests. She is not named in the indictment.
Graber and his wife face misdemeanor charges of police obstruction, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct in the 2010 eviction case.
Records show a trial in that case is pending.