A prominent Forsyth County fishing guide accused of making fraudulent investment deals, including in Gainesville, has now been formally charged with multiple counts of theft by taking, theft by conversion and deposit account fraud by the Forsyth County Superior Court.
Bradley Shane Watson and his wife, Pamela Jo Watson, owners of the Shane Watson Guide Service, were indicted by a Forsyth County grand jury on Monday, for allegedly unlawfully taking more than $235,000 from seven victims, between February 2016 and December 2017.
Bradley Watson, 51, was first arrested by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office in July 2018 after investigators conducted a lengthy investigation into accusations over allegedly fraudulent boat sale and investment deals in counties across the state and beyond. In October 2018, Watson was later brought up on additional charges after more alleged victims came forward to authorities.
According to a Forsyth County News investigation, Watson has been implicated in theft by deception and fraud cases in Forsyth, Walton, Ware, Banks and Monroe counties; Aiken County, S.C.; and the cities of Gainesville, Milton, Roswell and Alpharetta.
Alleged victims told the FCN that Watson used Craigslist to advertise new Carolina Skiff boats for sale, taking deposits of about $9,000 from people in Georgia and South Carolina.
Each of Watson’s alleged victims say they never received their boats and that within months after securing deposits for their boats Watson took thousands of dollars from them under the guise of a legitimate investment deal.
Watson has now been indicted locally for 10 counts of theft by taking, seven counts of theft by deception and one count each of theft by conversion and deposit account fraud.
Pamela Jo Watson, 51, who was arrested by the law enforcement agencies in Forsyth and Walton counties on similar charges in July 2018, has been indicted alongside her husband for nine counts of theft by taking and one count of deposit account fraud.
Watson and his wife have also been implicated in multiple civil lawsuits in Forsyth County which allege similar improprieties, including one suit involving Carolina Skiff, a boat manufacturer based out of Waycross with whom Watson allegedly had a marketing agreement.
According to that lawsuit, Carolina Skiff agreed on Aug. 11, 2017, to give Watson two boats on a nine-month, payment-free lease. Watson was required to feature the boats through his business and then purchase them at the conclusion of the nine-month period for $80,623.81.
Carolina Skiff claimed that Watson failed to promote or purchase the two boats and instead sold them the day after entering into the marketing agreement.
In the suit, Carolina Skiff also claimed that Watson deceived the company into contributing to a charity that allegedly doesn’t exist.
According to the suit, Carolina Skiff made $20,000 donations on Feb. 9, 2017, and Feb. 23, 2018, to The Sunday Afternoon Kids, a charitable foundation Watson claimed to operate. Watson mentioned the foundation on his fishing guide website, but Carolina Skiff said in a statement on Aug. 2, 2018, that Watson’s foundation is not recognized by the state of Georgia.
In a statement made to the FCN on Thursday, Scott Lindy, one of Watson’s alleged victims said that he was happy that the case was moving forward, but feels that the Watsons have done irreparable harm to the trust in the local fishing community.
“The trust the outdoor community has for their own is a special thing, and many lifelong friendships are created in the fishing community,” Lindy said via email. “They violated that trust.”
The cases against the Watsons will be presided over by Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Philip C. Smith and will be prosecuted by Ramsey R. Magaro.
When reached by email on Friday morning, Attorney Jacob Stidham, who will represent Bradley Watson at trial, declined to make a comment on the indictment.
This story originally published in the Forsyth County News, a sister publication of The Times.