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Heards, minister indicted in farm loan scheme

The four men will have an initial court appearance Tuesday, Nov. 27.

ALBANY, Ga. — An indictment issued by a federal grand jury in Macon and obtained this week by The Albany Herald names a family of businessmen and farmers and one local minister in what prosecutors contend is a conspiracy to defraud the Farm Credit Administration of more than $10 million.

Brad Heard Sr., Brad Heard Jr., Lawton C. Heard and the Rev. Craig A. Howell were each named in an indictment handed down Thursday.

They have an initial appearance in court set for Tuesday, court officials say.

In it, the grand jurors charge that the four men were each connected to Larry Malone, the former chief lending officer at Southwest Georgia Farm Credit (SWGFC) in Bainbridge, who has pleaded guilty to fraud and whose sentencing has been delayed pending his cooperation with federal prosecutors.

According to the indictment, Brad Heard Jr., who owned Backwoods Outdoors in Leesburg, borrowed roughly $5 million from SWGFC to purchase real estate in Southwest Georgia and North Florida.

Brad Heard Sr. also borrowed roughly $5 million from SWGFC and, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, acted as a “straw borrower,” meaning he borrowed money from the SWGFC on behalf of his son, who had nearly reached the $6 million cap imposed on farm credit loans by the federal government.

Howell, who is the full-time pastor at Plantation Parkway Assembly of God in Leesburg, is alleged in the indictment to have borrowed nearly $817,000 from SWGFC, also on behalf of Heard Jr. The indictment also charges that Howell borrowed $195,000 from the program to purchase a home for himself.

Lawton Heard, the brother of Heard Sr., is accused in the indictment of borrowing $1.7 million from the SWGFC on behalf of his nephew.

In exchange for rubber-stamping the loans, Malone and family members reportedly received thousands of dollars in kickbacks from the Heards, the indictment contends.

Heard Jr. was also indicted on charges that he illegally concealed his assets in connection to a bankruptcy petition for Backwoods Outdoors in 2008 when he testified under oath that he had no side deals with the buyer — identified as “J.S.” and “Mr. Sizemore” in the indictment — when, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he and “J.S.” had a written agreement dated Sept. 2, 2008 in which “J.S.” agreed to pay $300,000 directly to Heard, Jr., and not to the debtor business or to the bankruptcy court.

According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s website, Backwoods Outdoors LLC. was administratively dissolved in 2010. John Walker Sizemore of Smithville is the registered agent for Sizemore Backwoods Outdoors LLC., according to the secretary’s website.

Howell is also indicted for making false statements to a bank when, on May 10, 2006, prosecutors contend that he falsely told loan officials at HeritageBank of the South that the $100,000 down payment he was making to purchase a house was a gift from his mother when Howell knew the money was from a loan he had made on April 28 from SWGFC and was obligated to repay.

Malone is a key figure in at least one other farm loan scheme being prosecuted by the U.S. government.

In January, Joseph W. “Wiley” Jordan was indicted on five counts of fraud in connection with a series of loans totaling $3.4 million from June 2007 through January 2008.

Malone was the loan officer at the time and is believed to have paid Jordan $36,000 for referring new borrowers to SWGFC.

Jordan was convicted by a jury in June and is awaiting sentencing.

“Especially during challenging economic times, we will not tolerate this kind of fraud. The financial system works when we all play by the rules and obey the laws,” U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said.

Jordan’s attorney, Buddy Parker, said following the verdict that he’s planning an appeal.

As the judge said, this was a difficult and hard case,” Parker said. “There was insufficient evidence to support the verdict and we will appeal.”

Herald reporters Pete Skiba and Terry Lewis contributed to this report.

Comments

Outtahere 1 year, 9 months ago

That's what I was gonna say! WOW!

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jglass 1 year, 9 months ago

A few get caught.......I wonder how many out there are still getting away with doing this kind of stuff.

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dingleberry 1 year, 9 months ago

Plenty. We make things too easy to get the money, don't watch what is going on with it, and have penalties that are too light when the purps are caught.

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straightface 1 year, 9 months ago

I need to call that bank and get me some money, seems to be easy to get millions..

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MRKIA 1 year, 9 months ago

THE WORDING OF THIS HEADLINE IMMEDIATLY BRINGS REV.HEARD AND HIS CREW TO MIND.

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getserious 1 year, 9 months ago

WALB headline "4 South Georgia indicted for loan fraud" the Albany Herald just doesn't care.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 9 months ago

Those that pray together play together. Seems like Wiley and those bilked the government out of big money. Wiley should be in prison while awaiting the appeal. He is not better than the scum in another other hard core jail. The loan officer Malone should have life in prison.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

They's a lots of people living above they means in SOWEGA. Lots.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 9 months ago

If this was heard in Judge Sands court they will be able to keep the money and go free. There's several guys down in Camilla that will swear on the stand the embezzler's are fine fellows who just made some accounting errors.

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bubbavet 1 year, 9 months ago

This is nothing compared to what Obama is doing to America.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 9 months ago

That's not justification for this fraud.

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getserious 1 year, 9 months ago

It's obvious what they tried to pull with the headline...again I'll say it...no class.

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DoctorDorite 1 year, 9 months ago

I know several active farmers who were turned down loans in Bainbridge who needed the loans for the right reasons, I quess they did'nt party with the right crowd. Why does it take 6 months to sentence one to jail after conviction ? is the judge waiting on payment ?????

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FryarTuk 1 year, 9 months ago

In the case of Harris Morgan, pharmacist in Camilla, convicted of 69 counts of medicaid fraud (millions) in October, 2008. Judge Sands took 19 months to determine if jury had sufficient evidence to find guilty ( what a joke). Federal prosecutor had to raise hell with Judge to get it on his docket. Finally the high and grand pooh bah Harris Morgan was sentenced to 24 months but hasn't served a day. His convictions are on appeal but on these kinds of crimes they are never releasted on appeal. Judge says the ole boy had a tummy ache. Some sort of benign cyst which aint life threatening or even problematic. This is why we have problems with federal debt, lawlessness and healthcare. Judge Sands should be impeached.

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tiredofit 1 year, 9 months ago

Why is it that Mr. Jordan paid his loans back in full ( didn't report that did they ?) did not cost the gov't one dime(chinaberry25) accepted a fee(thats what brokers are suppose to get they hook up buyers and sellers) a corrupt banker knows he has screwed up starts singing to the Feds to cover his a$$ hoping to get lesser sentence. He has a board to report to he cannot approve a load over a certain amount. If he is to payoff a person he has to get a check approved. This smells to high heaven????

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 9 months ago

This paper is too much......trying to use "Heard" in the title to draw a crowd.... NOT IMPRESSED!!!

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

Thass cause you gots them "afro colored glasses" on yo haid.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 9 months ago

No, Honey Boo Boo...I can see clearly!!!

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Amazed2 1 year, 9 months ago

Albany and South Georgia is still the Good Ol Boy Network.

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Bumpyjohnson 1 year, 9 months ago

When I first read this article, Lorenzo Heard came to mind, especially with the word minister in the article. I am so glad that I didn't judge.

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RedEric 1 year, 9 months ago

This is the basis for a lot of movies. Crooks stealing land/money/whatever and law enforcement in cahoots. Citizens take the law into their own hands usually led by a stranger/returned war hero/whatever. This cannot happen since we are now owned by the government and no longer have the right of self rule. It makes good movies anyway.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 9 months ago

This REPUBLICAN paper is dirty.....everybody knows why they did that.......

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Jax 1 year, 9 months ago

So what if the title made you think of Pastor Heard?! What was the Herald to do? Make up last names for the indicted? All you had to do is read the article to know it wasn't Lorenzo they were talking about. How dare those people have the same last name as the pastor that has been in the news lately! Moron!

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Jax 1 year, 9 months ago

Ouch. That one really got me. Nothing to say to try and refute what I'm saying? Alright then, I'm rubber, and you're glue...

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D_Zaster 1 year, 9 months ago

The nerve of these people! Who do they think they are? Politicians?

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