A Cleveland man accused of making fictional real estate deals has filed through his attorney a motion to suppress documents seized recently by FBI agents.
Elmer Swain Stewart, 64, was arrested Feb. 12 and charged with wire fraud. Federal authorities allege that Stewart took $225,000 in investment money for deals that do not exist.
After seizing banker’s boxes with business records at a Clermont residence, the FBI Atlanta field office put out a notice April 15 warning there may be more victims in the Gainesville area.
Natasha Perdew Silas, Stewart’s attorney, responded in the days after the notice.
“Mr. Stewart does not appreciate the flurry of press activity spawned by FBI statements indicating that they are looking for victims of his conduct when no court has convicted him of any wrongdoing,” Silas wrote to The Times. “Mr. Stewart plans to defend himself against the charges when the trial of this matter is set and asks that the press reports respect the process of law and not indicate that the accusations against him are anything more than just that, accusations.”
Silas’ motion to suppress the documents seized claims there was not enough evidence to support seizing the documents.
The boxes of records were with Stewart’s relatives, who told authorities they noticed there were bank documents and real estate maps inside, according to a search warrant affidavit filed by FBI Special Agent James Patrick Harter.
Silas claims the knowledge obtained by federal authorities before the search warrant was obtained is “murky at best.”
“It is our contention that this statement ... does not provide probable cause to believe that the boxes would contain evidence of the fraudulent scheme outlined in the Government’s indictment,” Silas wrote in her motion.
Stewart was indicted on Jan. 10 and was accused of accepting $225,000 for deals involving timber rights, Clarke County subdivision lots and a Stephens County golf course.
Stewart is accused of accepting these payments between January 2006 and January 2010.
A hearing on the motion will be May 14 before Magistrate Judge J. Clay Fuller.