Macon Man Pleads Guilty for Role in AgGeorgia Loan Fraud Scheme
MACON, Ga. – A Macon man who participated in a scheme to defraud a community bank pleaded guilty for his role in the conspiracy.
Garland Stephens, 66, of Macon, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud a financial institution before U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell on Oct. 27. Stephens faces a maximum of 30 years in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release and a $1,000,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 1, 2023.
“The fraudulent scheme in this case harmed a local business, costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Protecting citizens and small businesses from fraudsters and ultimately holding them accountable for their criminal actions is a high priority for this office and our law enforcement partners.”
“The FBI works hard to make sure greed like this doesn’t pay off and those who commit fraud are held accountable,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Let this plea and the possibility of 30 years in prison serve as a warning to others to think twice before attempting to steal from the U.S. banking system.”
According to court documents, Stephens was recruited in 2018 by co-conspirator William Spigener, III, 34, of Columbus—an AgGeorgia loan officer at the time—to pretend to be a borrower in order to obtain fraudulent loans from AgGeorgia. Spigener enlisted Stephens and other straw borrowers, and in exchange for using their personal identifying information and appearing at loan closings, he would give them a portion of the loan proceeds, collecting the majority of the money himself. Spigener would create documentation to ensure the loan applications were approved, when in reality, none of these applicants were engaged in any type of farming activity and did not have the income or collateral to support the loans received from AgGeorgia.
Specifically, Stephens was listed falsely as a farm equipment seller on two approved loan applications. For each of these loans, checks were made out in Stephens’ name and co-conspirator Eary Fuller, 57, of Macon, in June and Oct. 2018. Fuller and Stephens endorsed the loan checks and deposited them. Spigener retained most of the loan proceeds, with some of the money going to Fuller and Stephens.
Stephens then agreed to obtain a fraudulent loan with AgGeorgia in his own name. Spigener used Stephens’ personal information to file the fraudulent loan, and also created and submitted false financial information and farm operating expenses. Stephens was approved for an $85,000 loan. In reality, Stephens did not have a farm requiring any operating expenses. Stephens was present for the loan closing on Jan. 25, 2019, and collected a $30,000 check, which he signed. The majority of the money was transferred to Spigener. Spigener and other co-conspirators have entered guilty pleas in this case; for more information, please go to: https://www.justice.gov/usao-mdga/pr/former-aggeorgia-loan-officer-sentenced-committing-fraud.
This case was investigated by the FBI.
U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Howard is prosecuting the case.