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Press Release

Newton County Board of Commissioners Chairman and Real Estate Broker Charged with Money Laundering

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Georgia

ATLANTA – Marcello Banes, Chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners, and Stephanie Lindsey, a real estate broker and attorney, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiring to launder money obtained from wire fraud and honest services wire fraud.

“By allegedly laundering proceeds obtained from a fraud conspiracy, these defendants violated the trust placed in them by their client, their constituents, and their fellow commissioners,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Public officials who undermine the public’s faith in our institutions by abusing their power for personal gain must be held accountable.”

“Banes and Lindsey undermined the public’s confidence in government and business in Georgia,” said FBI Atlanta Special Agent in Charge Keri Farley. “This indictment is a stern warning that anyone who violates our laws will be brought to face justice.”

“This is a case of a public official breaking the public’s trust to enrich himself and a realtor who did not serve her client, but instead, assisted the public official in breaking the law,” said Demetrius Hardeman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office. “Criminal Investigation special agents, our law enforcement partners, and the U.S. Attorney’s office are working together to hold those who break the law accountable.”

According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the indictment, and other information presented in court: In 1999, Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton Counties established a Joint Development Authority (JDA) to create an industrial area to attract industries to bring jobs and investment to the region. The JDA is controlled by an eight-member board of directors, with two members from each of the four counties. Marcello Banes, as the Chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners, represented Newton County on the JDA.

In 2018, a company identified in the indictment as “Company A” expressed an interest in purchasing approximately 40 acres of the JDA’s land for commercial development. Banes responded to Company A’s interest in the parcel by coordinating a brokerage agreement between Company A and Lindsey by which Company A would pay Lindsey’s CSL Realty Group (CSL) $150,000 upon completion of Company A’s purchase of the parcel.

The indictment alleges that at the time Company A entered this brokerage agreement, Banes and Lindsey misled Company A into believing that the commission was only intended for Lindsey. Neither Banes nor Lindsey disclosed to Company A that Lindsey would pay most of the commission -- which was contingent on the JDA voting to approve the sale -- to Banes. Had Company A’s owners known Banes would receive any of the commission, they would not have entered the brokerage agreement.

At a JDA board meeting on January 22, 2019, Banes voted along with other JDA members to pass a resolution authorizing the transfer of the parcel, which allowed the purchase of the land by Company A. Banes allegedly never disclosed to the JDA that, upon Company A’s acquisition of the land, Company A would pay $150,000 to Lindsey, who would funnel most of the payment to Banes.

Company A’s purchase was finalized on March 1, 2019. Although Lindsey was not present at the closing and neither she nor CSL were referenced in the closing documents, Lindsey contacted Company A the next day to collect the $150,000 payment. Shortly after receiving the payment, Lindsey allegedly passed $100,000 of it to Banes through a newly formed business entity they created. Banes used a substantial amount of that payment for a new house he was building in Newton County.

In addition to the money laundering offense, Lindsey is charged with two federal tax violations which allege that she filed two federal income tax returns for 2019 in which she claimed false business deductions to reduce her tax liability for the $150,000 payment.

Banes is also charged with lying to FBI special agents during a 2023 interview. The indictment alleges that he falsely told FBI agents that he was unaware Lindsey was involved as a broker for the sale of the land to Company A.

Marcello C. Banes, 48, and Stephanie R. Lindsey, 52, both of Covington, Georgia, were charged with conspiracy to launder money obtained from wire fraud and honest services wire fraud, and with money laundering. The grand jury also indicted Lindsey for federal income tax fraud and Banes for making materially false statements to FBI special agents.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove each defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.

Assistant U.S Attorneys Brent Alan Gray and Bret R. Hobson are prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is

Updated June 27, 2024

Financial Fraud
Public Corruption