Worth Co. Minister sentenced for bank fraud - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Worth Co. Minister sentenced for bank fraud

 A man convicted of making false statements to a federally insured financial institution was sentenced Friday in federal court.

Craig A. Howell, 53, was sentenced to one year in federal prison.

As part of the sentence, the Court entered a Preliminary Order of Forfeiture, ordering Howell to forfeit $100,000.00, or in the alternative, the real property and residence in Worth County which Howell purchased with the fraudulently obtained funds.

According to court documents, Howell, the pastor of Plantation Parkway Assembly of God Church, in Leesburg, Georgia, pleaded guilty to the indicted charges on October 7, 2013.

Howell entered an agreement with Brad Heard, Sr., Brad Heard, Jr., and banker Larry Malone to borrow a total of $800,000 from Southwest Georgia Farm Credit under false pretenses.

Prosecutors said Howell acted largely as a “straw” or conduit to pass approximately $700,000 directly to Mr. Heard, Sr., and Mr. Heard, Jr. Howell did not have the means or the intention of repaying these loans himself.

But they said Howell kept $100,000 of the loan proceeds for himself. Howell then falsely represented to Heritage Bank that the $100,000.00 was a gift from his mother.

Howell then took further measures and caused his mother to sign a fraudulent “gift letter” formally attesting that the $100,000.00 was a gift. He also photocopied the front of a check from his mother payable to him and gave it to Heritage Bank as proof that his mother had given him the down payment as a gift.

But the check was never negotiated, and in fact, Mr. Howell’s mother had only a few thousand dollars in her checking account at the time.

There is no parole in federal sentences.

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