Joshua Brian Randolph, a Gainesville man who police believe started a fraudulent newspaper, is now facing 42 charges, including theft, forgery and credit card fraud.
Oakwood investigator Danny Sridej said in June that Randolph, 25, started the newspaper, posting a website and social media accounts under the Gainesville Observer name. Randolph, going by the name “Kevin Cobb,” hired nine people, said Sridej, who believes the employees worked for Randolph for no more than two or three weeks.
Sridej said some of them had been paid with cash and others were given paychecks that bounced.
He suspects Randolph of writing employment and income verification letters to local businesses even though the company did not have any assets to support the claims in the letters.
“They didn’t know that they were being conned, pretty much,” Sridej said in June of the employees at the paper.
“And my feeling is that he was probably setting them up to get them in and probably use some of their identity or information to further the business. ... I don’t think he has the intention of doing a legitimate newspaper and paying them legitimately, like paying them with actual income, because there’s no assets in the company.”
Randolph was charged July 31 with the following:
• Thirteen counts of financial transaction card fraud
• Eleven counts of forgery in the first degree
• Five counts of forgery in the third degree
• Seven counts of theft of services, felony
• Four counts of theft of services, misdemeanor
• One count of theft by deception, misdemeanor
• One count of identity fraud, felony
All are felonies except the theft of services and theft by deception charges.
Sridej, who is investigating the case since the man previously had a number of charges out of Oakwood, said it’s possible there could be more charges.
Hugh Dale, a painter, said in June that he did work for a man calling himself Kevin Cobb and is now out $4,300.
He had two full-time and two part-time employees along with himself doing work at the Gainesville Observer office, he said.
Dale said the man asked for W-2s from his employees, saying that he needed to know who was on the job for insurance purposes.
“It’s gonna take me working basically just for operating money — nothing to put in my household for the next month and a half just to get back even,” he said at the time. “... The thing is he had no conscience. He knew how bad I was struggling.” Dale said he provides for his grandchildren.
Randolph also faces charges related to Hall County Sheriff’s Office cases involving two victims. Those cases are ongoing.
An incident report filed in May by the sheriff’s office states that a distant relative of Randolph’s reported that the man had stolen his identity and opened four accounts, including a Bank of America credit account where he had $1,800 in charges and an American Express account with $1,300 in charges.
On June 7, investigators from both Hall County and Oakwood searched Randolph’s residence and then obtained arrest warrants for Randolph on charges of theft by deception and financial transaction card fraud, according to Deputy Chad Mann, spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
On June 26, another 35 charges of financial transaction card fraud were added as the case progressed.
Other cases against Randolph are ongoing.
Last year, Randolph was charged with theft and forgery after Sridej said Randolph wrote a check from another man’s bank account. That man was a member of a semiprofessional basketball team called the Gainesville Heat, which Randolph had started.
District Attorney Lee Darragh said Randolph has been convicted in the past in connection with posing as a police officer as well as an attorney and was convicted on deposit account fraud on multiple occasions.
Randolph remains in the Hall County Jail. Sridej said a preliminary hearing is set for Aug. 19.