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Attorney General Baker Announces Criminal Sentences In Fraud Scheme Centered Around Former State Legislator's Real Estate

PRESS ADVISORY

Attorney General Baker Announces Criminal Sentences In Fraud Scheme Centered Around Former State Legislator's Real Estate

February 16, 2005

Attorney General Thurbert Baker announced today the successful prosecution of Michael D. Meminger and Darlene Moore for an elaborate fraud scheme centered around real estate owned by former state Senator Robert LaMutt. Baker had indicted the pair on felony charges in 2004, and both Meminger and Moore elected to plead guilty halfway through a felony trial in Gwinnett County Superior Court.

Upon announcing the sentences, Attorney General Baker pointed out thatprosecutors were “sending a clear message to fraud artists that time spent scheming in Georgia would translate into time spent stewing in prison.” Baker continued that, “Georgians have had enough of fraudsters preying on their hard-earned dollars, and he [Baker] intended to keep fast-tracking significant fraud cases in order to ensure justice was meted out.”

Meminger and Moore, a/k/a Darlene Meminger, were indicted for the theft of $300,000.00 from Arthur MacWilliams. During March 2003, Meminger held himself out to Mr. MacWilliams as the owner of Donnelly Garden Apartments, located in Fulton County, Georgia. Meminger and Moore negotiated an initial oral agreement with Mr. MacWilliams to sell the apartment complex, predicated upon MacWilliams' payment of $300,000.00 in refundable earnest money to an attorney's escrow account. On March 17, 2003, Mr. MacWilliams gave Moore a check for $300,000.00 payable to a Gwinnett County real estate attorney. However, Meminger told the attorney that the $300,000.00 was for a family trust account that the attorney had previously established for Meminger rather than for an uncompleted real estate deal. Consequently, the attorney disbursed the $288,000.00 over two months to Meminger and Moore pursuant to the trust agreement.

When the defendants could not deliver a valid contract to Mr. MacWilliams, he insisted on the return of his earnest money. It was at that time that Mr. MacWilliams learned his money was gone. Further inquiry by Mr. MacWilliams and his business partner, Tanya Kimbrough, revealed that then-State Senator Robert LaMutt owned Donnelly Garden Apartments and that Meminger had no authority whatsoever to sell or contract to sell the apartment complex or to receive earnest money from Mr. MacWilliams. $210,000.00 was traced to Meminger's personal checking accounts and to the purchase of two Mercedes and one Range Rover. Meminger ultimately spent all of the money he stole from Mr. MacWilliams. Moore received $78,000.00, $18,000.00 of which went to dental work for her and her son. Only $12,000.00 remained in the closing attorney’s escrow account by the time he realized something was amiss. During the trial, Moore produced to the state love letters from Meminger to Moore in which Meminger assumed the bulk of responsibility for the fraud. Acting on that evidence, the state and Moore reached a plea agreement contingent on her agreeing to testify against Meminger. Following her plea deal, Meminger then dropped his plea of not guilty and agreed to plead guilty.

Moore pled guilty to felony theft by receiving, and received a sentence of ten years probation plus full restitution to be paid to MacWilliams. Meminger pled guilty to felony theft by taking. He was sentenced to five years in prison followed by five years on probation, with full restitution to be paid to MacWilliams. The pleas were taken by Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge William Ray. Assistant Attorney General David McLaughlin handled the prosecution for the Attorney General’s office. The case was investigated by Special Agent Clay Nix of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.