Gwinnett County police are searching for William Jerome Adams after a shooting that left two dead — a 40-year-old woman and her 16-year-old son — in Flowery Branch Friday.
Police believe Adams was in a relationship with the female victim.
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Gwinnett police searching for suspect in double homicide near Flowery Branch
Gwinnett County police are searching for William Jerome Adams after a shooting that left two dead near Flowery Branch Friday afternoon.
Cpl. Collin Flynn said police received an emergency call just after 2 p.m. on Friday that two people had been shot inside a residence on Apple Gove Rd., which is located between Buford and Flowery Branch.
Flynn said when officers arrived, they located two victims that were both suffering from gunshot wounds. The victims were a 40-year-old female and her 16-year-old son. Their names are being withheld until the next of kin is notified, Flynn said.
Flynn said police believe Adams was in a relationship with the female victim. Adams is believed to have fled thea area in a 2010 black Audi passenger car bearing Georgia tag RWT9487.
He is a 24-year-old male who is about 6-foot-2 and weights about 210 pounds. Investigators are asking for anyone with information to come forward.
Anyone with information to share in this case can contact GCPD detectives at 770-513-5300. To remain anonymous, tipsters should contact Crime Stoppers at 404-577-TIPS (8477) or visit www.stopcrimeATL.com.
Crime Stoppers tipsters can receive a cash reward for information leading to an arrest and indictment in this case.
Case Number: 21-023352
Return to www.gwinnettdailypost.com for updates.
Gwinnett County Public Schools teachers may get $1,000 raise in 2021-2022 school year
Gwinnett County Public Schools employees may see a little more money in their pay check during the next school year.
The school system’s proposed $2.4 billion fiscal year 2022 budget includes $1,000 cost-of-living increases for each step on the district’s teacher salary schedule and a 2% cost-of-living increase for other employee salary schedules in the district. That proposed budget was presented to the county’s school board on Saturday.
“On average, an employee paid on (the teacher’s) salary schedule will receive about a 3.16% increase in their pay over where they are today this school year,” GCPS Chief Financial Officer Joe Heffron said.
The budget includes a $1.8 billion general fund, which covers the district’s day-to-day expenses. It also reflects an decrease in the austerity cut that school districts will face this year.
- By Curt Yeomans firstname.lastname@example.org
Districts had originally expected to see a 10% austerity reduction in state funding, which would have amounted to $100.8 million for GCPS. The cut was dropped to 4%, however, which amounts to $40.7 million for Gwinnett schools.
Heffron said the district is expecting to receive about $282 million from the recently passed third round of stimulus funding from the federal government, however.
Gwinnett County Public Schools is anticipating seeing enrollment increase by 2,542 students, most of which will be in kindergarten through second grade. That is an area — particularly kindergarten — that saw enrollment drop this past fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that the state does not require kids to begin attending school until they are 6.
High schools are also expected to see an enrollment increase.
The district expects to spend $15.4 million on new positions to accommodate the enrollment growth.
“For the additional 2,500 kids, it’s going to equate out to about 185 additional positions,” Heffron said. “(That will be) school support staff, and it will depend on our allocation formula, but it’s primarily teachers, clerical support staff, counselors — all school-based support staff based on that enrollment.”
The district will have to use $12 million from its financial reserves to balance the budget this year. Heffron said that is because the district is aiming to end the upcoming fiscal year with an unassigned fund balance of $235.7 million in June 2022, which would serve as the foundation that the fiscal year 2023 budget will be built upon.
Heffron said the $1,000 cost-of-living increase for teachers will cost the district $14.6 million while the 2% cost-of-living increase for other employees will cost $8.4 million.
The district does expect to have a salary schedule step increase, meaning an increase to reflect the number of the years they have worked for the district as well as their education level, in the budget.
“A beginning teacher (with only a bachelor’s degree) today whose first year in Gwinnett County is this year ... is making $46,646,” Heffron said. “Next year, that teacher receives a step increase from performance step 0 to performance step 1, plus we’ve increased everyone of these (steps) by $1,000 so they’re going to go from making $46,646 today to making $48,504 next year.”
The salary increase means a first-year teachers with only a bachelor’s degree who begins working for GCPS in the fall will be paid $47,646 for the school year.
The $1,000 cost-of-living increase is separate from the one-time $1,000 bonus that Gov. Brian Kemp has promised to school-based employees across the state, according to Heffron.
“Right now, our hope is that we can possibly be prepared to pass that along to our employees in their April paychecks,” he said. “We are awaiting some final numbers and final information from the Georgia Department of Education. The state board had a meeting (Wednesday) and it looks like they finally approved the CARES Act funding that can support this.”
There are some other items in the budget beside the cost-of-living increase, however.
The district is looking to make the temporary increase in substitute teacher pay instituted this school year permanent, and five additional social worker positions are in the budget. Unlike counselors, who are school-based, social workers are not fixed to one particular school and move around as needed within the district.
The district is also proposing adding personnel to expand the artificial intelligence, computer science and civic engagement programs in the schools; enhance operational and maintenance support for the areas of buildings and grounds, information management and information security.
The district also plans to expand its universal breakfast program to all Title I elementary schools during the 2021-2022 school year as well. The program is already available at all Title I middle and high schools in the district.
“All that means is that every child in that school, no matter what your eligibility status is, you are eligible to receive a free breakfast at school,” Heffron said.
The school board’s next budget workshop will be held the night of the board’s April 15 meeting, which will also be when the board votes to tentatively adopt the budget. After that, budget advertisements are set to run in the Daily Post, the county’s legal organ, on May 5 and June 6.
Public hearings on the budget are set to be held May 20 and June 17 with the school board set to vote on final adoption of the budget on June 17 as well.
The district’s budget book is expected to be available at gcpsk12.org for public review starting this weekend.
Due to print deadlines, check www.gwinnettdailypost.com for additional coverage about Saturday morning’s budget workshop.
Gwinnett's leaders looking at creating a chief equity officer position as vision for future is mapped out
Equity was a topic that came up often during the Gwinnett County commissioners two-day strategic planning retreat in Athens on Thursday and Friday, and county leaders are discussing possibly tasking someone to work specifically on that goal.
The creation of a chief equity officer position was one of the items that commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said has been discussed. This would be someone whose job would be to make sure the county government operates with equity in mind.
Although the annual strategic planning retreat normally sets the stage for what the following year’s budget will look like, Hendrickson said she would like to see the equity position established this year.
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
“We have equity in our core values so we want it to be felt throughout all of our service delivery strategies,” Hendrickson said after the retreat ended Friday. “So, having an intentional position that is looking at all of our areas, doing a disparity study (and) looking at where we need to emphasize our efforts around equity, I think having a chief equity officer will help us get to where we need to be to ensure that our strategic focus is equitable and it meets the needs of our communities and meets them where they are.”
The county commissioners and government department heads gathered at the Hotel Indigo for their annual retreat. The retreat is a time where the county’s vision, mission, values, priorities and strategies are hashed out with help from officials at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute for Government.
A desire for the county to provide equity was something that came up often during the retreat.
It was even one of the five core values that county leaders came up with for the county, along with integrity, accountability, inclusivity and innovation.
“I do believe, exactly as we say in our values statement, fairness and respect is something that should be implied, but there’s a perception that it’s not exactly what it should be,” Commissioner Jasper Watkins said. “You should be able to see equity and inclusion when you look within, it shouldn’t have to be explained to you.
- By Curt Yeomans firstname.lastname@example.org
“I think what we want to do is set a standard that when you look inside our organization, when you look inside our county, equity and inclusion is there and we don’t have to explain it. You feel it, you see it and it’s part of who we are.”
What the chief equity officer position would look like, or what it will entail has yet to be finalized. Hendrickson said she got the inspiration from the fact that Gwinnett County Public Schools has a chief equity officer, but what the county government equivalent of that would look like, and which department it would be located in, has to be fine tuned.
“We’re leveraging some of our relationships with consultants that we have in the HR area to see exactly what that position would look like,” County Administrator Glenn Stephens said. “I know equity can be hard to define for a lot of people, but in essence a fresh approach with someone with that title in a county of our size makes a lot of practicable and wise sense.
“For us, it will bring a fresh perspective to everything that we do.”
That theme of wanting to address equity permeated throughout discussions at the two-day retreat and is present in the county’s mission, vision, core values and priorities, even if the word “equity” itself isn’t always used.
“Gwinnett is the preferred community where everyone thrives,” the new vision states.
The mission builds on that by asserting the county government will back all facets of Gwinnett’s multicultural community.
“Gwinnett proudly supports our vibrantly connected community by delivering superior services,” the new mission states.
Commissioners Ben Ku and Kirkland Carden the fact that the theme of equity shows up in so many parts of the county’s new direction is that it is something that is important to the Board of Commissioners and Gwinnett County as a whole.
“The reason why it’s important to us is because it was important to the people who supported us and continue to support us,” Carden said. “It’s just the right thing to do.”
Ku said the philosophy is that all people in the county should be treated equally.
“It permeates everything because it is one of our core values,” he said. “It was something that was consistently said by all of the commissioners and all of the staff as a common theme because it is one of our values, and it has been ... It’s there, it’s been woven in. We just have to articulate it.”
All of that fed into the establishment of seven priorities. Those priorities are important because they will be used by department heads later in the year to determine what to focus on in their requests for the 2022 budget.
This was the first time that three new members of the five-person commission — Hendrickson, Watkins and Carden — got to have input on what will become the foundation that the county’s budget is built upon.
Those priorities are:
♦ Attract and retain workforce, employee focus, recruit/retain quality workforce
♦ Infrastructure investment, asset management, growth and infrastructure (urbanization)
♦ Safe communities, social welfare, public health, safety and welfare
♦ Sustainability and stewardship, fiscal health of the county, maintain financial stability, service delivery cost analysis
♦ Economic opportunities, attract high quality job creation/economic development
♦ Communication enhancement, enhanced communication, improved communication platforms inclusive of language
Transportation, mobility and transit, develop transportation alternatives
Passage of Georgia's omnibus voting bill draws mixed reactions in Gwinnett
Statements from officials with Gwinnett ties came throughout Thursday night and Friday as Republicans and Democrats weighed in on Gov. Brian Kemp’s signing of the state’s controversial 98-page omnibus voting reform bill.
Depending on who you ask — and more specifically what political party they belong to — it is either an act of voter suppression by Republican leaders in the state or a move to restore confidence in Georgia elections.
There was no middle ground taken on the topic.
“I applaud the Republican legislators who worked so hard to restore public confidence in our system of elections by securing the vote,” said Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer, a former state senator from Duluth, in a statement. “Sadly, Democrats continue to oppose secure, transparent elections. Georgia Republicans are committed to every lawful vote being counted, every unlawful vote rejected and for the counting to be done in the open and in accordance with law.”
On the other hand, Suwanee-based U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Ga., called it a “dark day for Georgia” and used it to call for passage of federal legislation that Democrats have crafted to address voting reform.
“SB 202 is, quite simply, a bad piece of partisan legislation, designed to make it harder for Georgians to vote,” Bourdeaux said in a statement. “It was Republicans who, in 2005, implemented no-excuse absentee voting in our state.
“Now, after a year where we saw record-breaking turnout, they’re trying to change the rules, simply because they lost an election. It’s wrong, and yet another reason why we need to pass the For The People Act immediately.”
The sweeping reform bill comes after Democrats posted big gains in Georgia in the 2020 general election, including President Joe Biden winning the state over former President Donald Trump in the presidential race. It also comes after Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans, lost election bids to Democrats in a Jan. 5 runoff.
Among the changes included in the bill are sections that limit the absentee ballot drop boxes to only being inside early voting locations and only available to voters during voting hours in the early voting period; shortening the window to apply for absentee ballots; making new requirements for verifying IDs of people seeking absentee ballots; and making it illegal to hand out food or water to people waiting in line to vote.
State Rep. Jasmine Clark, D-Lilburn, posted a photo on Facebook from Kemp’s signing of the bill, where he was flanked by six legislators, including Speaker of the House David Ralston, and referenced laws that had existed in the old South to limit the rights of African-Americans.
“This photo will be their legacy,” Clark said. “(Seven) white males, in front of a portrait of a plantation in South Georgia, taking us back to Jim Crow South politics, behind closed doors, shortly after the bill passed both chambers, breaking with convention of having their legal team review the bill before signing, and with having a public signing of the bill.”
But, not all of Gwinnett’s legislators opposed the bill.
“I was honored to vote to secure elections and help to restore integrity back into the process,” state Sen. Clint Dixon, R-Buford, said in a Facebook post after the Senate voted 34-20 to pass the bill on Thursday.
But officials who do not serve in the state legislator have also weighed in on the bill.
“This bill is an attack on decades of advocacy to eliminate voter suppression,” Gwinnett sheriff Keybo Taylor said in a press conference Friday morning. “This is a tactic that limits the ability of voters to exercise their 15th Amendment right to vote. This law was passed to address a perception of voter fraud and mistrust that has never been proven on a wide scale basis.”
Taylor indicated his office will likely not spend much time, if any, going after people for handing out water and food to voters who are standing in line and waiting to vote.
“Outside tampering in our elections is unacceptable, and I therefore agree that the state banning of monetary gifts to someone waiting in line is an appropriate step,” Taylor said. “However, I do not believe that it is in the best use of county tax dollars for my deputies to be focused more on who’s handing out water to a voter in a long line than to secure a polling place to secure the safety of all.”
Gwinnett County acquires former golf course, Ingles grocery store for passive park, records facility
Gwinnett County officials recently announced two land acquisitions — one a donation and the other a purchase — that will serve two very different purposes.
County commissioners agreed to accept a donation from Benjamin A. Wood and Anthony L. Wood of 88 acres of landlocked property at the former Northwoods Golf Club site, as well as a 30-foot-wide easement to Club Drive, in unincorporated Duluth. The property will be used by the county as a passive greenspace.
County officials said the property has wildlife buffers as well as greenway trail possibilities that could connect the property to Gwinnett Place Mall. The Sweetwater Creek Greenway that is planned for the area would also head east from the site.
“This land will be a welcome addition to our world-class park system,” Commission Chairwoman Nicole Love Hendrickson said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Woods for letting us have this property. It could potentially help us fill in some gaps in recreation for this area.”
They also agreed to buy the 87,393-square-foot former Ingles grocery store located at 1050 Grayson Highway in Lawrenceville for $5.2 million to serve as a replacement for the Records Management Center that is nearing capacity at 455 Grayson Highway.
The facility will house and manage court and county records in addition to being a storage place for Office of Emergency Management supplies. The grocery store has been vacant since 2019.
County will install roundabout near entrance to Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center
A key intersection near the Gwinnett Justice And Administration Center is about to get a facelift.
County commissioners recently voted to approve a contract with Summit Construction and Development LLC to build a roundabout at the intersection of Langley Drive and Constitution Boulevard in Lawrenceville. That is the last intersection drivers coming up the hill on Langley Drive pass through before arriving at GJAC.
The roundabout is expected to cost just under $1.2 million, with the funding coming from the 2014 special purpose local option sales tax.
As part of the project, the existing four-way stop will be replaced with a roundabout that is intended to improve traffic flow and safety. Lighting, drainage structures and curb and gutter improvements are also expected to be part of the project.
The county previously installed a roundabout at the nearby intersection of Constitution Boulevard and Nash Street.
Norcross teen already in custody for a 2020 murder has been charged in a 2019 homicide
A Norcross teen who is already facing a murder charge in one case is now facing charges in a second, unrelated murder.
On Monday, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Leslie Garcia-Juarez, 16, was arrested Friday on felony murder and aggravated assault charges in connection with the death of Norcross resident Osiel Montano, 19, in December 2019. The GBI said Norcross police asked state investigators to help with the investigation into Montano’s death, which occurred Dec. 30, 2019.
“Montano’s body had been found in an abandoned apartment at the Spring Lake Apartment complex located at 100 Chase Common Drive in Norcross,” the GBI said in a statement. “Montano died from a single gunshot wound to the head. It was determined that Garcia-Juarez shot and killed Montano and then fled the scene.”
The GBI worked with Norcross police, the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office, the Gwinnett County Police Department, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice and the Gwinnett county Juvenile Court Probation Unit to investigate the case and arrest Garcia-Juarez.
Garcia-Juarez was already in the custody of a state-run Regional Youth Detention Center in Gainesville when she was arrested for the death of Montano. She was at the center because she had been arrested at the end of 2020 on felony murder and aggravated assault charges in a separate case involving the death of Duluth resident Adaph Aimable, 22, who was killed in December 2020.
Aimable was found in an apartment in Duluth with a gunshot wound. He later died at a hospital. Gwinnett police the motive in that case might be domestic-related.
Anyone who has information about the Montano murder is asked to call 1-800-597-8477, visit gbi.georgia.gov/submit-tips-online or use the See Something, Send Something mobile app.
Gwinnett County Public Schools giving bus drivers a nearly $2 an hour raise
Gwinnett County Public Schools bus drivers are getting a raise as a thank you for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school system said the hourly wage rate for bus drivers will increase by $1.90 starting in April. The drivers were notified about the increase in a letter sent out last Friday, district officials said. The school system said that, in the letter, Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks praised bus drivers for being both committed to students and showing professional during the pandemic.
Gwinnett County Public Schools spent the early months of the pandemic, in spring 2020, having all students learning virtually from home, but the district used a hybrid model during the 2020-2021 school year, with some students learning virtually while others attended classes in person, depending on which option their parents chose.
“The Gwinnett County Board of Education and I know that this has not been an easy time and that our bus drivers have served on the front lines — interacting, caring, and transporting students safely each and every school day,” Wilbanks said in the letter. “We have the best bus drivers in the business … That is not something we take for granted and we are pleased to be able to recognize you with this pay raise in April.”
The pay increase means the wages paid to bus drivers, including both existing drivers and new hires, will range from $17.63 to $24.98 an hour. The drivers will also be eligible for cost of living and longevity step increases that might be included in the budget for the 2021-2022 school year.
Gwinnett County Public Schools bus drivers get commercial driver’s license training that is fully paid for by the district, in addition to what school system officials called an “excellent benefits” package.
“The school bus drivers of Gwinnett County Public Schools are mission-critical employees, ensuring the safe and professional transportation of our district’s most valuable resource – our students,” GCPS Chief Operations Officer Walt Martin said. “Our bus drivers love what they do, and even through challenges, they continue to demonstrate their commitment to their profession. Their value to the district is immeasurable and I am hopeful that the new pay scale will encourage more quality candidates to come join our winning team.”
GCPS officials said anyone who is interested in applying for a job as a bus driver must be 21 and have both a safe driving record and either a high school diploma or a GED. They can apply at www.GCPSJobs.Org/Drivers.
Multiple projects underway, or on the drawing board, signal the expansion of Suwanee's Town Center area
In a way, the work Suwanee is doing on Buford Highway, near Suwanee Town Center, and the recent renovations at Station Park might seem like two entirely different and unrelated projects. But they are actually related in ways that might not seem obvious at first.
The reality is that the ongoing improvements on Buford Highway, and the renovated Station Park that is expected to open this week, are two signs that the city is moving ahead toward fulfilling one vision for its downtown area whose roots can be traced back to the early 2000s.
They are a sign of things to come in the future for Suwanee.
“We’re expanding the downtown really,” Assistant City Manager Denise Brinson said. “The Buford Highway reconstruction is really as transformative as Town Center was, just creating that street that’s not a commuter road, it’s a downtown road that’s walkable, bikeable.”
- By Curt Yeomans email@example.com
The Station Park renovations and the Buford Highway improvements are a precursor to the big project that is looming on the horizon for Suwanee: The 23-acre Town Center expansion park on Main Street, which has been called Town Center West, Town Center on Main and simply the Town Center expansion at various times over the years.
The park — whose walking amenities will include a 15-foot wide, 20-foot-high park-spanning bridge — will be the biggest sign of the expansion of the town center region west from the intersection of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and Buford Highway.
The biggest difference between the new park and the existing Town Center Park, which is its model in many ways, is that the new space will not have concert stage shell.
“It will be an urban-style park with an open play area and sand volleyball courts, but (other than the lack of a stage shell) it will be very much like Town Center Park,” Brinson said.
Main Street will also be re-routed around the back of the park so it meets Suwanee Dam Road further away from the railroad tracks and Buford Highway. Meanwhile, the section of Main Street that is located in front of the Suwanee library branch will become a cul de sac.
A prelude to that park, however, was the renovation of Station Park, which is located next to Stillfire Brewing on Buford Highway.
Station Park is not a new park space, per se, but Brinson said it was in need of refurbishment. The playground at the park has been refurbished and an area has been set up with artificial turf where visitors can play corn hole. Seating areas have also been set up.
- By Curt Yeomans firstname.lastname@example.org
The construction was wrapping up this past week.
“We took out the parking lot that was in front of the police station and it created a promenade kind of before the police station so it had more of the presence instead of a parking lot,” Brinson said. “And, also it’s a transition between Town Center and the Town Center expansion on the other side of the railroad tracks.
“So, it kind of leads you from the Town Center to the tunnel (under the railroad). Instead of having to walk through a parking lot, you’re now walking through a landscaped plaza area. Yeah, so its really a transition park between what’s coming soon with the Town Center expansion and then the existing Town Center.”
With Station Park’s construction now wrapping up, the Buford Highway renovations are currently the main project for the city. In fact, Brinson called it the biggest project Suwanee has going on right now, and one that she said will be transformative in nature.
“The look is going to be totally different from Russell Street to Town Center,” Brinson said. “That’s what is heavy in construction right now.”
The idea is to have Buford Highway retain its nature as a community road, rather than turning it into a four-lane cut through, and to also make it more pedestrian friendly and increase walkability along the road.
Brinson said a key part of the Buford Highway project is that it will remain a two-lane road after the project is done. At the same time, there will be several improvements made, including a roundabout that has been installed and partially opened at the intersection of Buford Highway and Russell Street to lead into the Old Town Suwanee area.
Dedicated bike lanes, a turn lane, parallel parking areas and 10-foot wide sidewalks on each side of the road are being installed between Town Center and Russell Street as well.
“Really, it’s creating a loop from the Town Center to the roundabout, you turn right onto Russell Street which is out historic area and then if you turn right again, it will take you up to Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road and the (railroad) tunnel which is going to face the new park on Main (Street),” Brinson said.
A 10-foot-wide walking path has also been installed on one side of Buford Highway, from Russell Street to McGinnis Ferry Road, where it connects to an existing walkway is located.
But, the work on Buford Highway and the Station Park renovations are not the projects that are either underway or are on the drawing board that will have an effect on the core of Suwanee.
Pierce’s Corner in Old Town Suwanee, near the southern end of the Buford Highway construction, is being renovated by a restaurant that is leasing the space from the Suwanee Downtown Development Authority.
City officials have described this project online as being a potential catalyst for the revitalization of Old Town Suwanee on Main Street, heading toward the Town Center expansion park.
“We haven’t announced it fully yet, but it is under construction for a restaurant,” Brinson said.
While each of these projects are being taken on individually, they will — once completed — feed off one another in a way that Suwanee leaders envisioned at the dawn of the 21st century, when the Town Center concept was developed.
“This was all thought of back in the early 2000s, portions of it (at least),” Brinson said. “Our comprehensive plans, our downtown master plans, our open space park plans and our pedestrian and bicycle plans — they all work together and build on each other.”
Gwinnett County woman one of 11 pleading guilty to running multi-year mortgage fraud scheme
Eleven defendants, including a Norcross woman, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States in a mortgage fraud scheme spanning more than four years, the Department of Justice said.
The scheme resulted in the approval of more than 100 mortgages based on fabricated documents and false information. Many of the loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA,) resulting in claims being paid for mortgages that have defaulted, the DOJ said.
Stephanie Hogan, 57, of Norcross was one of the 11 who pleaded guilty.
“These defendants brazenly manipulated the real estate lending process by using their knowledge of the system,” Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine said. “Mortgage fraudsters threaten the soundness of the real estate market in our community and divert critical resources away from those borrowers who properly qualify for loans.
“Rooting out bad actors who attempt to abuse the system for their own personal gain makes the mortgage lending system safer and fairer for everyone.”
According to Erskine, the charges, and other information presented in court: The defendants participated in a conspiracy in which homebuyers and real estate agents submitted fraudulent loan applications to induce mortgage lenders to fund mortgages.
Erskine said listing agents Eric Hill and Robert Kelske represented a major nationwide homebuilder and helped more than 100 homebuyers who were looking to buy a home, but who were unqualified to obtain a mortgage, commit fraud. The agents instructed the homebuyers as to what type of assets they needed to claim to have in the bank, and what type of employment and income they needed to submit in their mortgage applications.
Hill and Kelske then coordinated with multiple document fabricators, including defendants Fawziyyah Connor and Hogan, who altered the homebuyers’ bank statements to inflate their assets and to create bank entries reflecting false direct deposits from an employer selected by the real estate agent.
The document fabricators also generated fake earnings statements that matched the direct deposit entries to make it appear that the homebuyer was employed, and earning income, from a fake employer. Other participants in the scheme then acted as employment verifiers and responded to phone calls or emails from lenders to falsely verify the homebuyers’ employment.
Defendants Jerod Little, Renee Little, Maurice Lawson, Todd Taylor, Paige McDaniel and Donald Fontenot acted as employment verifiers. Hill and Kelske coordinated the creation and submission of the false information so that the lies to the lenders were consistent.
In another aspect of the scheme, real estate agent Anthony Richard falsely claimed to represent homebuyers as their selling agent in order to receive commissions from the home sales. In reality, Richard had never even met the homebuyers he claimed to represent.
To avoid detection, he often notified closing attorneys that he would be unable to attend the closing and sent wire instructions for the receipt of his commissions, the DOJ said. When Richard received his unearned commissions, he kicked back the majority of the commissions to Hill or Kelske for enabling him to be added to the deal, keeping a small share for his role in the scheme.
The following defendants have pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States:
♦ Hill, 50, of Tyrone.
♦ Kelske, 52, of Smyrna.
♦ Connor, 41, of Tyrone.
♦ Hogan, 57, of Norcross.
♦ Jerod Little, 42, of McDonough.
♦ Renee Little, 33, of McDonough.
♦ Lawson, 36, of Powder Springs.
♦ Taylor, 54, of Fairburn.
♦ McDaniel, 49, of Stockbridge.
♦ Fontenot, 52, of Locust Grove.
♦ Richard, 44, of Locust Grove.
The defendants have agreed to pay restitution to the victims of their conspiracy, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which insures many of the residential mortgages in the United States, the DOJ said.
Sentencing hearings have been set for the defendants before U.S. District Judge Mark H. Cohen.
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- PHOTOS: Barrow County Animal Control Adoptable Pets of the Week — July 26
- PHOTOS: Gwinnett Animal Shelter Adoptable Pets of the Week — July 26
- ON THE MARKET: This home overlooking the 12th hole at Sugarloaf Country Club is listed for $1.795 million
- Weekly Gwinnett County restaurant health inspections for Aug. 1, 2021
- Common home renovation projects with the lowest return on investment
- PHOTOS: Gwinnett Chamber hosts tribute to GCPS Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks
- PHOTOS: Parents, community members protest against Gwinnett schools mask mandate
- ON THE MARKET: With more than 3 acres, this Suwanee area home is a 'wooded oasis'
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