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Atlanta Lawyer Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud By Christine Cristiano Another prominent lawyer is facing charges and up to 20 years in prison for stealing more than $2 million from his friends, colleagues and fellow church members across three states.
07/21/09 Prosecutors said that Atlanta attorney Steven H. Ballard, 53, allegedly ran his own real estate Ponzi scam from September 2002 to May 2006 involving 24 victims across Georgia, Tennessee and Florida. Initially, Ballard faced charges in several counties of Georgia and Florida but prosecutors have said ‘’that the charges will likely be dropped because of the federal plea.” On July 9th, Ballard pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Gale McKenzie, Ballard ‘’came with legal documents and deeds, showing the transactions that occurred. There were forged sales contracts from bogus sellers.” McKenzie reported that out of the $2 million that Ballard collected, about half the money has been recovered. Ballard’s attorney, Michael Martin also has confirmed that ‘’his client has returned the majority of the money and is in the process of repaying the rest.’’ Martin also noted that Ballard ‘’accepted responsibility for his conduct. He’s never denied what took place.” Ballard attracted his clients by promising them that their investments would exceed a 50 percent profit margin above their initial investment. Prosecutors said that Ballard would deposit ‘’the closing fees in his law firm’s escrow account instead of turning them over to the seller.’’ According to prosecutors, despite being charged in Clayton County and having his license suspended by the State Bar of Georgia, Ballard continued to solicit new clients to defraud.
According to Martin, Ballard ‘’has no assets. His home is foreclosed and his car was repossessed. This perception that he has all this money is simply not true.” Ballard was released on bond and is renting a house in McDonough along with his three sons. He is working part-time at a convenience store. In an effort to earn back some of the money, Ballard is organizing golf tournaments. One of Ballard’s victims, Lester Springle alleges that Ballard asked him to invest in a property in Coweta County after Ballard handled his divorce. According to Springle, Ballard was aware that Springle received a divorce settlement of $150,000 and asked to borrow the money. Springle maintains that he thought he was purchasing a home from Ballard but instead purchased a house ‘’that never legally belonged to Ballard.’’ Springle said that he gave Ballard money that was meant to pay the liens, and they were never paid. Springle also reported that Ballard ‘’took about $260,000 from him and he still does not own the house.’’ Springle trusted Ballard because of his reputation for practising law in the area, and Ballard came with good references. Presently issues regarding the sale of the alleged property are being dealt with in a civil lawsuit in Coweta County. Ballard also defrauded, long time friend and Peachtree County Attorney Don Cormer of $120,000. Ballard asked Cormer for the money citing reasons that he needed the money to cover some investments. According to Cormer, ‘’he ended up giving us a bad check. He told friends it was minor misunderstanding and he’d repaid everyone.’’ Cormer’s portion of the money has not been returned to him. Cormer and his wife are hurt and disappointed, but Cormer points out ‘’that there are others who have lost everything.’’
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Legal Daily News Feature Ballard has been a lawyer since 1981 and was disbarred in 2006. For years, Ballard taught as an adjunct professor at
Clayton State University and practised law in Forest Park with a Clayton County judge.
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Published on Oct 21, 2012
Another prominent lawyer is facing charges and up to 20 years in prison for stealing more than $2 million from his friends, colleagues and f...