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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Seven Falls co-defendant receives sentence reduction in North Carolina

A former bank president convicted of signing off on millions of dollars in illegal loans to support the floundering Seven Falls development received a six-month reprieve in his four-year prison sentence Monday.

In May 2012, George Gordon "Buddy" Greenwood was ordered to serve four years in federal prison after pleading guilty to embezzlement by a bank officer and money laundering charges in June 2011. Senior Judge Henry M. Herlong granted a request from prosecutors to shave six months off his term in exchange for his help with the case in U.S. District Court in Asheville.

In a motion filed Dec. 12, Greenwood's attorney Jason Ferguson argued that a six-month reduction was not a fair reward for his client's cooperation. Greenwood's "cooperation may have resulted in other defendants choosing to plead guilty rather than risk trial and may have resulted in strategic decisions in the case of Keith Vinson," according to the motion.

Vinson, the developer behind Seven Falls, was convicted after a jury trial in October. Four of his co-defendants, Avery Ted "Buck" Cashion III, Raymond "Ray" Chapman, George Gabler and Andrew Hager, reached plea deals with federal prosecutors in the days leading up to the trial.

"Though defendant (Greenwood) is himself financially destitute, his cooperation has provided the victims in this case multiple, lucrative sources of the millions of dollars of additional restitution outstanding in this case," according to the motion.

Ferguson said that in two meetings with federal prosecutors and law enforcement agents, Greenwood "provided verbal information and assisted the government with document review and comprehension in an effort to assist in constructing theories of the case, and presentation of the evidence to laypeople who don't regularly review these financial documents."

Ferguson also argued that despite his client's assistance to the government, Greenwood has "endured exceedingly more harsh conditions while in prison based solely on his decision to cooperate."

He said Greenwood was placed in a minimum security facility in Edgefield, S.C., on June 28, 2012. On Aug. 1, 2012, he was "transported through a number of transition facilities following his restitution proceedings in Asheville." On Aug. 29, 2012, he returned to Edgefield, where he stayed until March 13, 2012.

Following that date, Ferguson said his client was transferred in and out of five other facilities in Georgia and North Carolina "because of his decision to cooperate with the government."

The constant transfers made him subject to strip searches and body cavity searches "on countless occasions," Ferguson said.

In a final plea before the court to extend a greater reduction in Greenwood's sentence, Ferguson argued that his client's punishment is nearly the same of other co-defendants who came to plea deals with attorneys much later in the game.

Aaron Ollis, who served as a real estate appraiser for 25 years in Western North Carolina, and Thomas "Ted" Durham Jr., a former president of Pisgah Community Bank, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government in September.

Real estate investors and private money lenders Cashion, of Lake Lure, and Chapman, of Brevard, pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Ollis, Durham, Cashion and Chapman face up to five years in prison, $250,000 in fines and no more than three years of supervised release for the charge.
In March, co-defendant Andrew Quinn Hager pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, according to court records.
In the end the judge agreed to a six-month reduction. Greenwood is also ordered to repay nearly $9.3 million in restitution in the case.

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