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Man sentenced to 33 months in federal prison, must pay $877K in restitution in mail fraud case

A Jefferson man was sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay $887,188  in restitution after prosecutors said he bilked investors, according to court officials.

Winston Wade Turner, 50, previously pleaded guilty to mail fraud and was sentenced Wednesday, Oct. 9.

“Turner pitched a bogus biofuel scheme to former clients he met through reputable brokerage firms where he previously worked,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak in a statement. “He lured his victims into signing ‘corporate notes’ with promises of immediate returns on a profitable biofuel producer which turned out to be only a shell company of his own invention. This case is a reminder that if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.”

Turner’s attorney Jeff Ertel did not return a request for comment.

Back in July 2015, Turner told people he was a broker for North American Biofuel, even though it was nothing more than a rented mailbox and articles of incorporation in Florida, according to court officials.

The man reportedly asked former clients from his previous financial services firms to put money in the biofuel producer, promising a “stream of monthly interest payments and return of the full principal,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Unknown to his victims, Turner had been fired, lost his broker’s license and been banned from the securities industry,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Turner made a fraction of the interest payments but did not return the principal.

Following the 33 months in prison, Turner will be on three years of supervised release.

He was also ordered by the court to forfeit $160,149.52.

The victims listed in the indictment were residents of Barnesville, Blue Ridge and Tiger.

Hall County Fire Services Capt. Zachary Brackett said the department participated in the investigation following a February 2016 house fire.

Brackett and the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not explain how the fire is connected to the fraud investigation.

Firefighters responded to a fire at a 2,500-square-foot home on Winding Rose Trail near Union Church Road in South Hall. The house, valued at $300,000, was a total loss.

“The Hall County Fire Marshal has determined this fire to be intentionally set and has been working in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since that determination,” Brackett previously told The Times.

Brackett said Thursday, Oct. 10 he was checking with the fire marshal regarding the case.

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