Three people who worked for Ponzi schemer Wendell Spell’s heavy equipment company have been dropped as defendants in a lawsuit filed by 16 former investors.
The dismissal was filed Wednesday in Hall County Superior Court by Ralph Taylor, an attorney representing victims looking to recover money lost to Spell. The lawsuit, filed Feb. 19, initially accused former North Georgia Equipment Sales employees Greg Rowland, Sam Shaw and Debra Almand of involvement in Spell’s fraud.
The three were cleared of wrongdoing after Spell pleaded guilty to wire fraud this week in U.S. District Court.
“Based on our investigation and the cooperation of Mr. Shaw, Mrs. Almand and Mr. Rowland, we are satisfied that they had no knowledge of or involvement in Mr. Spell’s fraudulent activities, and we sincerely regret any harm which may have visited Mr. Shaw, Mrs. Almand and Mr. Rowland as a result of this litigation,” Taylor said in a prepared statement.
Spell faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Federal prosecutors say he bilked at least 50 investors of more than $60 million.
Rowland, a former sales manager at North Georgia Equipment Sales, and Shaw, Spell’s former office manager, left the company in August and later opened Southpoint Equipment.
Spell disappeared in October as investors began questioning him about interest payouts.
Arturo Corso, the Gainesville attorney representing Spell’s former employees, said his clients were “very pleased to have obtained this dismissal so quickly.”
Corso said the dismissal “goes a long way toward quelling any second thoughts about their reputations.”
“These three folks are good, honest, hard-working people whose character is beyond reproach, and it has been a struggle recently to make sure that people do not erroneously associate their good business practices with the dubious business practices of Mr. Spell,” Corso said.
Taylor said Spell’s victims were “pleased to learn of (Spell’s) guilty plea” and “are appreciative of the efforts made by both federal and state authorities in their investigation of this scheme.”
“My clients will continue to pursue civil remedies against Mr. Spell,” Taylor said. “Many citizens in our community and others have sustained substantial loss as a result of Mr. Spell’s fraudulent activities, and we remain confident that our judicial system will bring justice to the perpetrator of these crimes.”
No sentencing date has been set for Spell. He is free on $25,000 bond, his residential address sealed by a federal judge because of purported death threats.