Three people who worked for accused Ponzi schemer Wendell Spell say they had no idea he was bilking investors in his heavy equipment company and should not be named as defendants in a lawsuit against him.
Former North Georgia Equipment Sales employees Greg Rowland, Debra Almand and Sam Shaw filed an answer this week in Hall County Superior Court to a lawsuit brought by 16 investors who say they lost millions to Spell.
"We have nothing whatsoever to do with any of these losses by any investors who did business with Wendell Spell," Rowland, Almand and Shaw wrote in a prepared statement released by their attorney, Arturo Corso. "We are willing to assist anyone who asks for our help in the same way that we have been assisting the authorities and other investors to get to the bottom of this tragic situation."
Spell has not been charged in the alleged scheme, which authorities believe may have taken local investors for between $10 and $30 million.
Federal authorities are believed to be preparing a case against Spell, though no indictment has been made public since the investigation was turned over to the U.S. Attorney’s office in October. The Justice Department does not comment on ongoing investigations.
Corso said his clients are "good, honest, hardworking people who are really suffering from the association of having worked for a company owned by Wendell Spell."
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 19, accuses Spell, Rowland, Almand, and Shaw of engaging in a "conspiracy to defraud and steal ... by fraudulently selling items of heavy equipment." It seeks compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction to prevent the defendants from "conveying, disposing, disbursing, encumbering, liquidating, moving, transferring or withdrawing any real property, personal property, assets or funds currently in defendants’ possession."
Spell operated North Georgia Equipment Sales, which sold and leased heavy equipment, for at least five years prior to closing up the Aviation Boulevard location and disappearing in October, Corso said. At least 20 people say they lost money to Spell.
Corso said Rowland, a sales manager, Almand, an administrative assistant, and Shaw, an office manager, were occupied only with legitimate business activities for the company.
"Apparently, Wendell Spell started taking on investors who thought they were going to get security interests in the equipment and later share in the profits when it was sold," Corso said. "He was doing all that privately, behind closed doors and not involving my clients at all."
Efforts to contact Spell, whose whereabouts are unknown, have been unsuccessful. Sheriff’s officials have not been able to serve him with the lawsuit because he can’t be found, court records show.
Corso said his three clients moved on to other jobs at least two months before the alleged scheme collapsed in October. He said Spell’s "erratic" behavior prompted them to seek work elsewhere.
"My clients never had any whiff of something like this going on until they had already left the company," Corso said.
Corso says he hopes the plaintiffs will dismiss their claims against his clients.
No court hearings have been scheduled in the litigation.