Wednesday, March 30, 2011
AUGUSTA, Ga. — A Martinez man pleaded guilty to one count of Wire Fraud in federal court this morning. 51-year-old Fred William Layman III signed a plea agreement with prosecutors, agreeing to plead guilty to the first of five counts against him. In the same agreement, prosecutors say they will drop the remaining four counts in exchange for Layman’s cooperation during the rest of the case.
Today was the initial appearance for Fred William Layman III in federal court downtown Augusta. Layman is listed as the registered owner of North Augusta Golf and Country Club on Gregory Lake Road. Layman faced five counts of Wire Fraud, accused of lying to get more than $400,000 in loans to illegally purchase houses in Martinez and using his stepdaughter to get the loans. Judge Randall Hall explained to Layman that the charges against him were not indictments, but files for information. Layman opted to waive his right to indictment and proceed by information only.
FBI Special Agent Jason Gustin testified their investigation revealed Layman sold ten properties to his stepdaughter, asking her to file false applications to a financier in order to obtain the money. The documents falsely listed her employment as “Fred Layman Properties” and a salary of $84,000. Gustin says at the time, Layman’s stepdaughter was a college student out of town who made no more than $100-200 per month. Furthermore, the woman’s loan applications referenced one asset as a bank account holding $150,000. Gustin says their investigation determined that the $150,000 in the account was really Layman’s money; they allege he wrote a check to his stepdaughter who then deposited it in the account. “Essentially the buyer used the seller’s money to make down payments on the properties,” explains Gustin in court.
Gustin also testified that at a loan closing on January 30, 2007, Layman’s stepdaughter was approved for an approximately $80,000 loan which was transferred from Wachovia Bank in Charlotte, North Carolina to Georgia Bank Trust in Augusta, Georgia. Dustin said Layman has actually been the one maintaining control and payments of the properties. He testified, “The purpose of the scheme was to free up cash and debt load to improve [Layman’s] financial standing and obtain financing to buy North Augusta Golf and Country Club.”
Layman told the court he agreed with the facts in the prosecution’s testimony against him, but wished to clarify the number of properties sold was eight, not ten. He did, however, agree with the description of the actions and scheme Dustin described.
Judge Hall then described the conditions of Layman’s plea agreement. Layman agreed to waive his right to indictment and plead guilty to the first count against him. The government agreed to dismiss counts 2 through 5 against Layman if he cooperates fully to help prosecute any others involved in this case. The agreement also specifies Layman can not be called to testify against “A.N. or J.L.” and the loss amount will not exceed $200,000. The government would have no objection to a reduction of Layman’s sentencing if he cooperated truthfully with all of these conditions. Layman and Assistant District Attorney Stephen Inman signed the plea agreement.
Judge Hall explained Layman could face up to twenty years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. These penalties will be determined at a sentencing hearing later. Judge Hall agreed to release Layman on a $20,000 bond with the understanding that Layman could have no contact with any witnesses or co-defendants in the case. Layman will be involved with pretrial supervision until his sentencing hearing.
“It just all fell apart, and he did his best to try to save it.” Defense Attorney Vic Hawk says Fred Layman was just trying to help out his stepdaughter, and himself, when he had her fill out fraudulent loan documents in 2007. “He put down as her income the amount of income he hoped she would have. It was not the accurate income. And as a result that’s a violation of the federal law when he obtained the loan.”
The loans were more than $400,000 in total, to buy five properties on Berrien court in Martinez. Now, about four years after the properties were purchased, Brianna Wong lives in one of the town houses. She was shocked to see her new address listed in the middle of a federal fraud case. “That is just ridiculous! I mean, it’s really shocking to know my house is involved in that!” She says there was at least one other owner of the property since Layman owned and later foreclosed on them. She knew these properties had been foreclosed on years before she and her husband bought one but had no idea it was related to Layman’s admitted crime. “All I’ve got to say is people have to do a lot of work to do some scam like this. It’s crazy.” Brianna lives in one of the five properties listed, not the one Layman plead guilty to in accordance with his plea agreement. The other four counts will be dismissed by the federal government if Layman cooperates with the investigation.
One woman who used to work with Layman tells News 12 she’s not shocked at all. She wishes to remain anonymous but explains, “He could be kind of high strung! One minute he was okay and the next minute he’s stressing out over his wheelings and dealings as far as his financial things…Sometimes you would get a little bit suspicious just by the way he’d be constantly be talking to people on the phone about needing money.”
Layman plead guilty to one of the five counts against him, and is now waiting for his sentencing hearing. His lawyer adds, “Fred Layman’s not the kind of person that needs to go to jail. He’s a good guy. He had things fall out from under him financially, and he’s going to make restitution.”
The U.S. Attorneys office tells News 12 there are no other charges for Layman, his stepdaughter, or anyone else pending in this case.