Author: Nathaniel Hodges

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck suspends himself from office

Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck suspends himself from office

ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) – Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck announced Thursday that he is voluntarily suspending himself from office after his indictment on fraud charges.

In a letter sent to Gov. Brian Kemp, Beck declared his innocence and said he doesn’t intend to resign.

“In the coming months, it will, unfortunately, be necessary for me to spend a significant amount of my time defending myself against these false charges,” Beck wrote in the letter. “Preparing for that trial will be a significant distraction from my public duties.”

On Wednesday, Kemp asked Beck to resign, saying it would be "highly inappropriate" for Beck to continue to hold public office and he should "do what is right for our state and step down immediately."

If you don’t have a PDF plugin, but you can download the PDF file.

Beck surrendered to authorities on Wednesday, one day after he was indicted by a federal grand jury on 38 counts.

The charges relate to Beck’s time as general manager of operations for the Georgia Underwriting Association, which was created to provide high-risk property insurance to Georgia homeowners.

He’s accused of using fraudulent schemes to embezzle more than $2 million between 2013 and 2018.

Beck has entered a plea of not guilty.

RELATED: Grand jury indicts Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck

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Walk A Mile in Cascade’s Shoes draws attention to hazardous road in SW Atlanta

Walk A Mile in Cascade’s Shoes draws attention to hazardous road in SW Atlanta

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) Residents in southwest Atlanta are pushing back against Renew Atlanta’s decision to deprioritize the Complete Street project plan for Cascade Road Phase 2.

The city’s failure to address the dangerous conditions along Cascade—from Avon Avenue to Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard—leaves residents at a heightened level of vulnerability due to higher rates of walking and taking public transit to work, and lower rates of vehicle ownership in the area.

The hazardous stretch of roadway ranks fifth on Atlanta’s High-Injury Network list and is plagued with poor visibility for drivers and deadly pedestrians crosswalks. These residents said, the city is doing nothing to rectify the safety measures along the busy corridor isn’t an option local organizers and community members are willing to accept.

“We understand that the funding isn’t available to make it a complete street, and we also understand that doing nothing fails to meet the key considerations—safety, equity and mobility—Renew Atlanta extended to all of its projects,” said Wykeisha Howe, Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy Elementary School parent and active PTA member. “We’ve organized “Walk a Mile in Cascade’s Shoes,” to remind everyone that Cascade residents deserve more respect because the conditions on this road are especially hazardous for the families that live, learn, and work in this area.”

Community members, including parents and students from Tuskegee Airmen Global Academy Elementary School, walked from the school along Cascade Road to raise awareness about the road’s conditions.

The group walked to the crosswalk at the intersection of Rogers and Cascade, where a 52-year-old Cascade resident, David Gordon, was hit by a driver and killed while crossing the street in the crosswalk in January.

These residents wants the city to fulfill their promises and fix the roads in Southwest Atlanta.

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Affordable Senior Housing Comes To Snellville Towne Center

Affordable Senior Housing Comes To Snellville Towne Center

The 55-plus age restricted housing project is also the first development approved under the new 2040 Comprehensive Plan regulations.
The 55-plus age restricted housing project is also the first development approved under the new 2040 Comprehensive Plan. (Shutterstock)

SNELLVILLE, GA — Snellville’s Towne Center will have its first new development after the Mayor and Council gave the go-ahead to an 88-unit affordable senior housing development adjacent to Snellville United Methodist Church.

Wendover Housing Partners’ 55-plus age restricted housing project is also the first development approved under the new 2040 Comprehensive Plan regulations.

The 111,412-square-foot building will be located on the southwest corner of the SUMC campus on the corner of Henry Clower Boulevard and Pate Street. The development will be on existing church property, mostly in an existing parking lot.

"The proposed … age restricted community will not only add value to the nearby properties. It’s very close to the Senior Center in the Towne Center and Wendover’s residents will frequent that facility often," Wendover officials said in the project’s letter of intent. "The Comprehensive Plan/LCI Study does have a need for affordable senior housing and that’s what we’re proposing to develop adjacent to the Snellville United Methodist Church."

Named Asbury Pointe, the L-shaped development will have one- and two-bedroom living quarters. The building will feature two elevators, interior air conditioned hallways, and clubhouse amenities may include a hair salon, social gathering room, an exercise room and/or business center. Some of the outdoor amenities may include a gazebo, a garden area and a shuffleboard court.


"As the rapid increase of senior-oriented development in Snellville and the Atlanta metro will attest, there is a large and growing need for housing for an aging population other than detached single-family homes on large lots, which is by far the most common development type in Snellville," city officials said. "Not all present and future residents wish to give up that lifestyle, but more and more are expressing a desire to at least have other options, so that they do not have to make the choice between an unsustainable lifestyle or leaving their city. The hope is that these would produce development that is walkable, human-scaled, and less dependent on automobiles as the primary method of transportation."

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Housing enclave rising in Atlanta’s ‘Upper Westside’ is priced from $1.1M

Housing enclave rising in Atlanta’s ‘Upper Westside’ is priced from $1.1M

Jim Chapman CommunitiesThe site in question, between woodlands and Moores Mill Road, west of Interstate 75.

In recent years, Atlanta’s so-called “Upper Westside” has seen accelerated development of retail, commercial office space, and housing heavy on townhomes and apartments, but a new single-family enclave is aiming to raise the bar with prices that reflect the Buckhead location.

Facade of a finished home.

Called “The Homestead at Ridgewood Heights,” the 12-home venture is under construction along Moores Mill Road, between Interstate 75 and the area’s long-stalled, Publix-anchored shopping center.

Flaunting options that include elevators, three-car garages, and full basements, the four-bedroom offerings described as “elegant” will range between $1.1 and $1.3 million.

It’s believed to be the only new housing development at those prices in Buckhead’s coveted Morris Brandon school district, with private options including Lovett, Westminster, and Pace Academy schools nearby, according to developer Jim Chapman, president of Jim Chapman Communities.

The site in relation to area landmarks.

That selling point, and the community’s private road without through-traffic, have attracted strong interest from young families, Chapman said.

Seven of the home sites border woodlands, and no exterior designs will be repeated, developers noted. HOA fees cover mowing, seasonal plantings, and other yard work.

Four houses have been constructed, and nine homes overall remain unsold.

A living room with built-ins and an example of bold light fixtures that carry throughout. Floorplans are the work of Mary Bairstow, an experienced Buckhead designer.
Another kitchen with barn door.
Master bathroom example.
Airy downtown loft on Peachtree Street is the real deal for $270K
In Avondale Estates, $689K midcentury modern (probably) won’t disappoint purists
Midtown leaders ask public to help envision neighborhood’s future

Atlantans in ‘food deserts’ can now qualify for cheap rides to grocers, farmers markets

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GA Scam Warning: Schemes That Steal Millions From Aging Parents

GA Scam Warning: Schemes That Steal Millions From Aging Parents

Scammers posing as IRS agents is the most frequent scam targeting Georgia’s elderly residents, authorities say. (Image via Shutterstock)

ATLANTA, GA — It’s possible your parents or grandparents have already gotten a call or two trying to scare them into forking over their money. Some thieves pose as grandchildren who have been jailed or stranded in need of cash, while another ruse is to pose an Internal Revenue Service agent demanding gift cards to settle phony back tax claims.

See below for tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself and your relatives.
The most common scheme in Georgia to target the elderly is financial abuse and theft, both by strangers and relatives.

A Kennesaw man pleaded guilty in 2016 to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from an elderly man, admitting that he took more than half a million dollars from the victim between 2010 and 2015 under the guise that his father was ill and needed money for surgeries and medicine.

The perpetrator even convinced the victim to pawn vehicle titles and firearms in order to get more money, authorities say.

Scammers were convincing enough to steal $42 million from their victims over a recent 15-month period, according to a report to the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which is looking into scams against some of the nation’s most vulnerable. And $42 million is just a conservative estimate of actual losses in the grandparent scam.


"That’s outrageous, isn’t it?" said Kathy Stokes, the director of AARP’s Fraud Prevention Program. "They were probably asking for relatively small amounts of $500."

In Georgia, the top scams targeting the elderly are:

1. Elder Financial Abuse
2. IRS Impersonation Scam
3. Romance Scams
4. Computer Tech Support Scams
5. Unsolicited Phone Calls

Georgia residents made 14 complaints to the Senate Special Committee on Aging Fraud Hotline in 2017, but that figure does not represent reports that might have been made to state attorneys general offices and other watchdog groups.

The "grandparent scam" is one of several in the arsenal con artists use in a $37 billion annual industry that targets about 5 million older Americans each year, according to government data.

Overall, the top 10 scams on elderly Americans are:

IRS impersonation scamsRobocalls / unsolicited phone callsSweepstakes / Jamaican lottery scam"Can you hear me?" scamGrandparent scamComputer scamRomance scamElder financial abuseIdentity theftGovernment grant scam

‘Simple, Yet Very Devious’

Aging Americans are con artists’ targets of choice, partly because they’re seen by scammers as vulnerable, but primarily because of a perception "they’re sitting on piles of money," said Randy Brauer of the National Council on Aging.

The "grandparent scam" is "simple, yet very devious" in that it "exploits that relationship a grandparent has with a grandchild," Brauer said.

Several of his colleagues’ parents or grandparents have received these calls, Bauer said, and they were able to keep scammers on the line while verifying the safety and whereabouts of a younger relative supposedly in a bind.

It may seem like common sense that "if your kids is really in trouble, they’re not going to get an iTunes gift card to get out of jail," Brauer said, but the ruse works when con artists press the point and pass gift cards off as the quickest way to get the child out of harm’s way or as an official form of government tender.

The terrified grandparent may think, "this is the new digital age; this is how I’m supposed to do this," he said.

‘I Love You, Send Money’

Con artists bank on their victims’ silence due to embarrassment in a growing number of online romance scams, too. These scams are a booming business. The FBI took more than 14,545 complaints about romance and confidence scams in 2016 for a total dollar loss of nearly $220 million, up precipitously from two years prior, when about 5,885 complainants reported $86.7 million in losses.

"More and more Americans are generally more comfortable meeting online for platonic and romantic relationships, and these scams are following them, whether its apps or social media sending them friend requests or instant messages on Facebook saying, " ‘I’m in love with you’ and then asking for money," Stokes said.

In an AARP survey of U.S. adults age 18 and older, more than one in four said they or someone they knew had been the target of an online relationship scam. Specifically, the survey showed 4 percent had been victimized in an online relationship, and another 14 percent said they had been targeted.
Facebook has privacy settings, but in the beginning, "people went to Facebook in droves and never buttoned down their information, so it’s there for any scammer to exploit," Stokes said.

‘IRS, IRS, IRS To, Boom, Social Security’

Scammers stole $65 million from the elderly alone through the IRS impersonation scam over a three-year period ending in 2018, but the volume of calls dropped dramatically after a series of high-profile arrests, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

It’s as if con artists "turned over a page in the imposter script, and overnight, it went from IRS, IRS, IRS to, boom, Social Security," Stokes said. "It just exploded."

Crafty scammers spoof 202-area-code federal-government office numbers to make the calls look like the real thing, then use a scam to perpetuate a scam, telling their targets their Social Security account has been hacked, and they need the Social Security number to reinstate it before benefits are lost, Brauer of the National Council on Aging said.

Clever identity thieves pose as representatives of banks, credit card companies, creditors or government agencies and try to get their targets to give up sensitive information like account numbers, Social Security numbers, mothers’ maiden names, passwords and other identifying information. There are some easy ways to spot a scam call, but the most important thing people can do is hang up immediately and then call back at the number on an account statement or in a phone book.

The Social Security scam now supercedes the IRS impersonation scam in frequency of calls, Stokes said.

In Georgia, victims had lost $1.3 million to the IRS impersonation scam as of Jan. 31, 2018.

Mom And Dad, Can We Talk?

Stokes has a script for her own mother in the event she gets a call about the grandparent scam — or any one of several that try to emotionally rattle elderly Americans into giving up Social Security or Medicare account numbers by telling them their benefits are in peril.

"I’m having tea with Officer Brady," Stokes instructed her mother to say. "I can’t talk right now."

What Stokes has done is good advice for anyone looking after elderly relatives, though convincing her mom to admit she needed a plan wasn’t an easy sell. Stokes’s mom is armed with more knowledge about fraud than most aging Americans by virtue of her daughter’s job. "But sometimes she won’t listen to me," Stokes said.

"Maybe your mom isn’t going to listen because she’s being obstinate — go to the Fraud Watch Network, get that tipsheet, print that out and tell them, ‘If you don’t believe me, read this,’" she advised. "Maybe that will help you break through."

Though delicate and difficult, no one looking after an aging parent or grandparent should put off the conversation, Stokes said.

What you can do right now to protect yourself and your relatives:

Be leery about anyone calling on the phone about any emergency. Get a phone number to call back and verify the whereabouts and safety of the person the call is about.Never give out Social Security, Medicare or financial account information over the phone.In general, avoid answering calls from numbers you don’t recognize.Don’t confirm any personal information. Avoid saying "yes" to any question, as calls may be recorded and the answer can be used as consent for a purchase you didn’t request.Don’t press any numbers to stop calls. That will likely increase the number of robocalls you get, signaling to the scammers they’ve reached an active number.Change your voicemail message so it doesn’t reveal your name or other personal information. If you want a legitimate caller to know they’ve reached you, go ahead and put your phone number on the message.Don’t return calls that claim to be from the IRS, the Social Security Administration, your bank or a local police or sheriff’s department. If you think the message is legitimate, don’t return the number left on a voicemail. Instead, look up the legitimate phone number.Register both your landline and your cellphone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.Report robocalls and other unwanted calls with the FTC, by phone at (888) 382-1222 or (877) 382-4357, or online.The FCC also has tips on how to stop unwanted and illegal robocalls.

Read more here about what’s being done to stop robocalls.

Reported and written by Beth Dalbey, Patch national staff

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WATCH: Arik Gilbert at The Opening Atlanta

WATCH: Arik Gilbert at The Opening Atlanta

Arik Gilbert – Marietta – 2019 The Opening Atlanta

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. — Whether looking on the hoof, at testing numbers or through the one-on-one competition portion (video above) of The Opening Atlanta, Arik Gilbert was more than noticeable. The Marietta (Ga.) class of 2020 star checked about every box the offseason setting could supply.

As 247Sports wrapped up its coverage Sunday, there was plenty of back-and-forth over the top overall performer on the day, with Myles Murphy at the forefront of it along with eventual Alpha Dog and Darlington (Ga.) offensive lineman Tate Ratledge.

But Gilbert was no slouch either, using his size to make life difficult for defenders during 1-on-1 competition.

For starters, composite five-star tight end/athlete Arik Gilbertworked with the group. While Gilbert wasn’t flawless in finishing plays, his immense talent was evident. The 6-foot-6, 243-pounder is an effortless mover and breaks off his routes with ease. Gilbert also tested well, running a 4.83 40-yard dash, 4.50 shuttle and jumping 34.6 inches."

As Power mentioned, Gilbert tested well and showcased his tremendous upside in a near 300-prospect field with Atlanta always being a top camp drawing talent from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi and more this time around. He was the No. 15 overall tester, logging a 113.34 rating, second among all tight end participants behind Jaheim Bell, who profiles as more of a hybrid pass catcher or potential linebacker. The power ball throw is where Gilbert shined, with his 46-foot throw topping everyone at the camp.

It doesn’t take a high-level college football prospect evaluator to see why national powers Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and many others occupy Gilbert’s verbal scholarship offer list. All eight 247Sports Crystal Ball predictions are in favor of in-state Georgia landing Gilbert.

Gilbert is currently ranked the nation’s No. 14 overall prospect, the No. 1 athlete, and No. 2 overall recruit in Georgia among rising-seniors by the industry-generated 247Sports Composite. Below is his initial 247Sports Scouting Report from last fall:

Long-limbed, muscular, v-shaped athlete with a frame that can continue to add lean mass naturally. Rare body. Plays both sides of the ball for his high school and brings consistent effort in each role. Brings mismatch ability to the tight end position with both size and athleticism. Can play attached or split out as a wide receiver. Adequate hands and ball skills. Has verified combine athleticism. Likely has more upside as a defensive end where he is raw but has length and speed to overwhelm offensive tackles and chase down ball-carriers. Not refined in any one area. First off the bus type of athlete that is just better than everyone at this level but will need to refine technique on the next level on either side of the ball. Power five impact player on either side of the ball with first-round NFL Draft upside.

Check out clips from Gilbert in action from the Atlanta Opening Regional above.

Arik Gilbert – Marietta – 2019 The Opening Atlanta

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Atlanta Braves To Throw Watch Party, Face Cubs In Home Opener

Atlanta Braves To Throw Watch Party, Face Cubs In Home Opener

Mike Foltynewicz, No. 26 of the Atlanta Braves, pitches against the San Francisco Giants, September 11, 2018. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/File)

ATLANTA, GA — The defending National League East Champion Atlanta Braves will host a watch party at The Battery Atlanta for Opening Day as the team begins its season on the road against division rivals the Philadelphia Phillies Thursday, March 28 at 2 p.m. First pitch is slated for 3:05 p.m.

Activities include:

A live DJ, the Heavy Hitters and ATL Breakers will entertain the crowd between inningsBLOOPER, the Tomahawk Team, Chick-fil-A Herd of Cows and the Home Depot Tools will be on-hand interacting with fans throughout the afternoonFans can take photos with the 2018 NL East Championship Pennant680 The Fan will broadcast live from the Plaza from 9:30 a.m. – 1:50 p.m.FOX Sports Southeast’s pregame show, Braves LIVE, will be live from the FOX Sports’ set inside The Battery Atlanta with Brian Jordan and Kelsey Wingert as well as shown on the Georgia Power Pavilion video board at 2 p.m.Fans will have the opportunity to spin the FOX Sports Prize Wheel at the Watch Party to win Braves tickets and other prizesThe Braves Clubhouse Store will stay open till 7 p.m. and will have giveaway items for fan contests at the Watch PartyFood and beverage kiosks will be on hand throughout the Plaza

Parking for the Watch Party is free in the Red, Green and Purple Decks for four hours.

After the three-game series in Philadelphia the Braves return to Atlanta to take on the Chicago Cubs in their Home Opener Monday, April 1 at 7:10 p.m.

You can catch all the action — or, if you’re really lucky, a foul ball — for as little as $42. Click here to find tickets at SunTrust Park and enter the promo code "PatchTickets10" at checkout to get 10 percent off.

The Braves are coming off a winning season in which the team had a record of 90-72. The team will be led this year by head coach Brian Snitker and Mike Foltynewicz will be the pitcher on opening day.

The Braves will have their work cut out for them this year. In case you forgot, the Red Sox won an impressive 108 games and went on to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in five games to win the World Series. The Red Sox are the early favorites to win it all again in 2019, according to the odds-aggregating site Bookmakers are giving the boys from Fenway about a 13 to 15 percent chance of repeating as champions.

Freddie Freeman #5 of the Atlanta Braves reacts after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers during Game Three of the National League Division Series at SunTrust Park on October 7, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Scott Cunningham/Getty Images/File

To buy tickets with a Patch discount click here.

The Atlanta Braves made seven roster moves March 12, trimming their spring roster to 41 players.

The club optioned LHP Kolby Allard, LHP Grant Dayton, C Alex Jackson and RHP Jacob Webb to Triple-A Gwinnett, while reassigning LHP Thomas Burrows, LHP Corbin Clouse and LHP Tucker Davidson to minor league camp.

Following the moves, the Braves have 20 pitchers (six left-handers and 14 right-handers), three catchers, 11 infielders, and seven outfielders in camp. Thirty-three players from the 40-man roster remain, along with eight non-roster invitees.

This is the predicted Braves’ Opening Day roster, according to The actual roster could be announced as early as Monday, to provide the players a chance to know who will be traveling to Philadelphia Tuesday to prepare for the March 28 season opener.

Brian McCann
Tyler Flowers

Freddie Freeman
Ozzie Albies
Dansby Swanson
Josh Donaldson

Ronald Acuña Jr.
Ender Inciarte
Nick Markakis

Charlie Culberson
Johan Camargo
Sean Newcomb
Kyle Wright
Julio Teheran
Max Fried

Arodys Vizcaíno
Jonny Venters
Sam Freeman
Jesse Biddle
Chad Sobotka
Dan Winkler
Shane Carle
Bryse Wilson
Wes Parsons

TicketNetwork is a Patch promotional partner.

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A Conversation with Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens

A Conversation with Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens

Andre Dickens is the Post-3 At-Large, Atlanta City Councilman, who has been in office since 2013. Andre Dickens has been one of the few councilmen to be outspoken on issues of gentrification and housing affordability.

Andre Dickens

Dickens was one of the six city council members to vote ‘No’ during November’s controversial Gulch redevelopment project vote. Eight of the 15 councilmembers voted for the project proposed by California-based developer CIM to redevelop the Gulch in downtown Atlanta, a project that could include up to $1.75 billion in public financing.

Dickens is the former Atlanta City Council President Pro-Tem and serves as the chair of the Transportation Committee. He also serves on the Committee on Council, Public Safety & Legal Administration Committee, and Finance/Executive Committee.

Saporta Report: You’re one of the six (of 15) City Council members to vote ‘No’ on the controversial funding of the Gulch development deal. Why?

Andre Dickens: “I voted ‘no,’ but now I want to move forward to make it the best it can be. I felt there was limited oversight…

“The equity goals were in the right direction but needed more teeth and enforcement for the goals to be met. I wanted more commitments to local hiring before during and after construction.

“I wanted to see more minority inclusion and the AMI (Area Median Income) could’ve been made deeper for those making under $45K like, teachers and police officers, especially given such unprecedented amount of economic incentives.”

The Gulch and Richard B Russell (right) Federal Building, where Terminal Station once stood (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

Councilman Dickens over the last few years has emerged as a champion of affordable housing throughout Atlanta and on the City Council. The next set of questions address inclusionary zoning and affordable housing.

Saporta Report: So how does the affordable housing mandate actually work?

Andre Dickens: “It is required, but they [developers] have the ability to opt-out. And why are they given that opportunity? It’s because of state law.

“If you don’t set aside the 10 percent of affordable units per development, the developer has to pay an in-lieu fee of roughly $190,000 per unit. This then is multiplied times the number of units that should’ve been in that development (10 percent).

“For example, if a developer plans 100 units of market rate housing and wants to opt-out of providing affordable housing, then (the developer) must pay the roughly $190,000 fee per unit, which in this example would be roughly $1.9 million to the city.

“The city would then offer that money to a developer who can build those affordable housing units. And to my knowledge no developer has decided to pay the in-lieu fee as of yet.

“Plus the money has to be used in the same general area. For example, you can’t take that affordable housing money that would be used in the Gulch and develop in another part of the city. The affordable housing HAS to be build in that area.”

Saporta Report: On the issue of inclusionary zoning, is this a mandatory requirement for all developments? Or is this just at the developers behest?

Andre Dickens: “The goal was citywide to create an inclusionary zoning ordinance. Because we have a state law that prohibits rent control in the state of Georgia.

“So we either have to change the law but until it’s addressed by the state lawmakers, we [the City of Atlanta] have worked around that – by saying around places such as the Beltline, Gulch and around the (Mercedes-Benz) stadium, and wherever we have huge public investment, we must have affordable housing.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the Westside Future Fund’s Transform Westside Summit in 2018. (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Affordable housing in Atlanta has become more pressing, with every year post-great recession seeing housing prices and real estate climbing. This lead to in 2017, Mayor Keshia Lance Bottoms pledged a whopping $1 billion dollars for the development in affordable housing.

The next series of questions are related towards that pledge as well as affordable housing in Atlanta.

Saporta Report: So what’s the deal with the mayor’s $1 billion dollar pledge to affordable housing?

Andre Dickens: “You really have to ask the Mayor’s office. I’m in support of that dollar amount, but I’m not in any leadership position with it.

“But I’m excited in the prospect of what someone like Terri Lee (chief housing Officer) can do, especially with an amount that big and land available.”

Saporta Report: Are there new sites being looked at for affordable housing in Atlanta?

Andre Dickens: “Yes, there are new and old sites ripe for affordable housing development. This is a good question for Atlanta Housing Authority.

“But I will say we have at least six big AHA sites now that we could develop affordable housing on today. Places like Bowen Homes, Herndon Homes and Englewood, (which) in particular has a had a plan for years that has never taken off for whatever the reason.

“I want to be clear I’m talking about mixed-income affordable housing and not concentrated poverty.”

Saporta Report: What will the city be doing to promote more multi-family housing?

Andre Dickens: “Almost all of the developments we’re talking about for affordable housing will be multi-family housing – most of these will be apartments.

“Invest Atlanta’s down payment assistance program is doing great work in the single-family space. So is Habitat for Humanity.”

This map, from the July 2018 city audit of affordable housing, shows the unequal distribution of affordable housing in the city.

Saporta Report: What do you think will be the biggest hurdle to cross to ensure Atlanta is affordable 10 years from now?

Andre Dickens: “Paralysis in analysis. We (Atlanta) know what we need to do, but we sometimes get too bogged down on unnecessary things, we just need to do it.”

Saporta Report: Is this the last stand for affordable housing?

Andre Dickens: “I think it’s the last stand. If we can’t get affordability under control now and fast, it will get away from us – especially, if we see an economic downturn.”

Saporta Report: What are some ideas that will help affordability?

Andre Dickens: “See Egbert Perry and the mixed-income model for housing and what he did in de-concentrating poverty in public housing. See what happened in East Lake and Centennial Place for how to make mixed-income housing work.

“We could also be doing more accessory dwelling units in a lot of the backyards in our homes in the city.

“I’d like to see more mixing of financing for down-payments on homes or homeowner assistance programs.

“I’d also like to see us addressing equity issues in transit and better planning around transit.”

Saporta Report: You’re a small business owner in Atlanta. What could be done to foster more business development in downtrodden areas of Atlanta?

Andre Dickens: “I owned a few furniture stores myself, and I think we need to continue to promote the opportunities here. We have DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprises) requirements at 38 percent in the city, and we’ve got to let more people know about opportunities like this.

“I think we’ve got to develop the southside. When the southside folks go to the northside to spend money but get limited reciprocation of economic support, it’s a problem to me. That’s problematic for the recycling of money these communities need.

“We need to start creating more businesses on the southside with people who live in the southside.”


Saporta Report: You’re from Atlanta. With the rate of demographic changes in the city, do you think there will be a day when no one born and raised in Atlanta will be in the City Council?

Andre Dickens: “No. It does concern me still when I see residents move away but there are many legacy residents still here.”

Saporta Report: So that brings me to the topic of gentrification. I myself am a filmmaker who chronicles gentrification and have seen it first-hand – the same as you. In your opinion what is gentrification doing to Atlanta?

Andre Dickens: “I’m proud to be from Atlanta, and I was born six months after Maynard Jackson became the first black Mayor of Atlanta. He professed and delivered economic inclusivity.

“My DNA is attached to this city. Gentrification is an economic and cultural problem. It took a lot of hard work to develop culture here, and if we (Atlanta) can’t preserve it, we’ll lose it.

“Yes, you will have nice restaurants, shops, and building towers. But we must be careful not to become the same gentrified cities with a fractured soul that we see across this country.

“This culture is what has drawn many people and businesses here but we have to create opportunities for participation for the newcomer and the legacy resident.”

Extra Credit: For more information on affordable housing please check out the links below.

Preserving naturally-occurring housing affordability in metro atlanta neighborhoods


RegionalSnapshot_AffordableHousing_July2017 (1)

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The following discussion should be read in conjunction with the consolidated financial statements and notes thereto appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The historical consolidated financial data discussed below reflects the historical results and financial position of KREF. In addition, this discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements and involves numerous risks and uncertainties, including those described under "Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements," and Part I, Item 1A. "Risk Factors" in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. Actual results may differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.


KKR Real Estate Finance Trust Inc. is a real estate finance company that focuses primarily on originating and acquiring senior loans secured by CRE assets. We are externally managed by KKR Real Estate Finance Manager LLC, an indirect subsidiary of KKR, and are a REIT traded on the NYSE under the symbol "KREF." We are headquartered in New York City.

We conduct our operations as a REIT for U.S. federal income tax purposes. We generally will not be subject to U.S. federal income taxes on our taxable income to the extent that we annually distribute all of our net taxable income to stockholders and maintain our qualification as a REIT. We also operate our business in a manner that permits us to avoid registration under the Investment Company Act. We are organized as a holding company and conduct our business primarily through our various subsidiaries.

2018 Highlights

Operating Results:

Net Income Attributable to Common Stockholders of $87.3 million, or $1.58 per basic and diluted share of common stock, increased 48% and $0.28, respectively, compared to 2017.

Net Core Earnings of $100.0 million, or $1.81 per basic and diluted share of common stock, increased 80% and $0.59 respectively, compared to 2017.

Declared dividends of $1.69 per common share. The fourth quarter dividend of $0.43 per common share produced an annualized yield of 8.75% on our December 31, 2018 book value.

Investment Activity:

Originated 19 floating-rate senior loans totaling $2.7 billion of commitments, of which $2.4 billion was funded as of December 31, 2018. Average loan size increased by $20.1 million to $143.6 million, a 16% increase over 2017.

Current portfolio of $4.1 billion is 100% performing and 98% floating-rate with a weighted average LTV of 68% as of December 31, 2018. Current portfolio increased 98% over 2017.

Sold four CMBS B-piece investments and recognized a $13.0 million gain.

Portfolio Financing:

Increased our borrowing capacity to $4.1 billion as of December 31, 2018, compared to $1.8 billion as of December 31, 2017.

Increased our non-mark-to-market financing to $1.8 billion as of December 31, 2018, representing 60% of our total asset based financing.

Entered into a $1.0 billion non-recourse term loan facility providing non-mark-to-market asset based financing.

Issued a $1.0 billion managed collateralized loan obligation, providing $810.0 million of non-mark-to-market portfolio financing.

Entered into a $200.0 million asset based financing facility providing non-mark-to-market financing.

Capital Markets Activity:

Issued $143.8 million aggregate principal amount of 6.125% convertible senior notes due May 2023.

Completed an underwritten public offering of 5.0 million primary shares of our common stock in August, providing $98.3 million in net proceeds.

Completed an underwritten public offering of 4.5 million shares of our common stock, consisting of 0.5 million primary shares issued and sold by KREF and 4.0 million secondary shares sold by certain of the Company’s shareholders in November, providing $9.4 million in net proceeds to KREF.

Repurchased 1,623,482 shares of our common stock for approximately $31.3 million at a weighted average price of $19.30 per share.

Our book value was $1.1 billion as of December 31, 2018, a 7% increase over 2017.

Key Financial Measures and Indicators

As a real estate finance company, we believe the key financial measures and indicators for our business are earnings per share, dividends declared, Core Earnings, Net Core Earnings and book value per share.

Earnings Per Share and Dividends Declared The following table sets forth the calculation of basic and diluted net income per share and dividends declared per share (amounts in thousands, except share and per share data): Three Months Ended December 31, Year Ended December 31, 2018 2018 2017 Net income(A) $ 19,709 $ 87,293 $ 58,818 Weighted-average number of shares of common stock outstanding Basic 58,178,944 55,136,548 45,320,358 Diluted 58,253,821 55,171,061 45,321,360 Net income per share, basic $ 0.34 $ 1.58 $ 1.30 Net income per share, diluted $ 0.34 $ 1.58 $ 1.30 Dividends declared per share(B) $ 0.43 $ 1.69 $ 1.62

(A) Represents net income attributable to common stockholders.

(B) During February 2017, we declared a dividend of $0.35 per share of common stock paid on February 3, 2017 to shareholders of record on February 3, 2017 related to income generated during the three months ended December 31, 2016.

Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings

We use Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings to evaluate our performance excluding the effects of certain transactions and GAAP adjustments we believe are not necessarily indicative of our current loan activity and operations. Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings are measures that are not prepared in accordance with GAAP. We define Core Earnings as net income (loss) attributable to our stockholders or, without duplication, owners of our subsidiaries, computed in accordance with GAAP, including realized losses not otherwise included in GAAP net income (loss) and excluding (i) non-cash equity compensation expense, (ii) the incentive compensation payable to our Manager, (iii) depreciation and amortization, (iv) any unrealized gains or losses or other similar non-cash items that are included in net income for the applicable reporting period, regardless of whether such items are included in other comprehensive income or loss, or in net income, and (v) one-time events pursuant to changes in GAAP and certain material non-cash income or expense items after discussions between our Manager and our board of directors (and subject to the approval by a majority of our independent directors). The exclusion of depreciation and amortization from the calculation of Core Earnings only applies to debt investments related to real estate to the extent we foreclose upon the property or properties underlying such debt investments. Net Core Earnings is Core Earnings less incentive compensation payable to our Manager.

We believe providing Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings on a supplemental basis to our net income as determined in accordance with GAAP is helpful to stockholders in assessing the overall performance of our business. Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings should not be considered as a substitute for GAAP net income. We caution readers that our methodology for calculating Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings may differ from the methodologies employed by other REITs to calculate the same or similar supplemental performance measures, and as a result, our Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other REITs.

We also use Core Earnings to determine the management and incentive fees we pay our Manager. For its services to KREF, our Manager is entitled to a quarterly management fee equal to the greater of $62,500 or 0.375% of a weighted average adjusted equity and quarterly incentive compensation equal to 20.0% of the excess of (a) the trailing 12-month Core Earnings over (b) 7.0% of the trailing 12-month weighted average adjusted equity ("Hurdle Rate"), less incentive compensation KREF already paid to the Manager with respect to the first three calendar quarters of such trailing 12-month period. The quarterly incentive compensation is calculated and paid in arrears with a three-month lag. During the year ended December 31, 2018, the Company incurred $4.8 million of incentive fees payable to the Manager, of which $2.4 million, or $0.04 per share, was related to the gain recognized as a result of the April 2018 CMBS sale, see Note 8 to our consolidated financial statements included in this Form 10-K.

The following tables provide a reconciliation of GAAP net income attributable to common stockholders to Core Earnings and Net Core Earnings (amounts in thousands, except share and per share data):

Three Months Ended Year Ended December 31, December 31, 2018 2018 2017 Net Income (Loss) Attributable to Common Stockholders $ 19,709 $ 87,293 $ 58,818 Adjustments Non-cash equity compensation expense 387 1,973 65 Incentive compensation to affiliate 1,470 4,756 – Depreciation and amortization – – – Unrealized (gains) or losses(A) 1,980 (1,370 ) (3,375 ) Non-cash convertible notes discount amortization 91 224 – Reversal of previously unrealized gain now realized(B) – 11,900 – Core Earnings(C) 23,637 104,776 55,508 Incentive compensation to affiliate 1,470 4,756 – Net Core Earnings $ 22,167 $ 100,020 $ 55,508 Weighted average number of shares of common stock outstanding Basic 58,178,944 55,136,548 45,320,358 Diluted 58,253,821 55,171,061 45,321,360 Core Earnings per Diluted Weighted Average Share $ 0.41 $ 1.90 $ 1.22 Net Core Earnings per Diluted Weighted Average Share $ 0.38 $ 1.81 $ 1.22

(A) Includes $1.6 million, $1.6 million and $0.0 million non-cash redemption value adjustment of our Special Non-Voting Preferred Stock for the three months ended December 31, 2018, the year ended December 31, 2018, and the year ended December 31, 2017, respectively.

(B) Includes $5.5 million and $6.4 million of unrealized gains related to the first quarter of 2018 and to prior periods, respectively, that were realized during the three months ended June 30, 2018.

(C) Excludes $0.2 million, $1.8 million and $4.0 million, or $0.00, $0.03 and $0.09 per diluted weighted average share outstanding, of net original issue discount on CMBS B-Pieces accreted as a component of taxable income during the three months ended December 31, 2018, year ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively.

Book Value per Share We believe that book value per share is helpful to stockholders in evaluating the growth of our company as we have scaled our equity capital base and continue to invest in our target assets. The following table calculates our book value per share of common stock (amounts in thousands, except share and per share data): 6 ——————————————————————————– December 31, 2018 December 31, 2017 KKR Real Estate Finance Trust Inc. stockholders’ equity $ 1,132,342 $ 1,059,145 Shares of common stock issued and outstanding at period end 57,596,217 53,685,440 Book value per share of common stock $ 19.66 $ 19.73

Book value per share includes the impact of a $1.9 million non-cash redemption value adjustment to our redeemable Special Non-Voting Preferred Stock ("SNVPS") and the initial value of the SNVPS of $0.9 million (collectively referred to as "SNVPS Cumulative Impact"), which reduced our book value per share by $0.05 as of December 31, 2018. Upon redemption of the SNVPS, our book value will increase as a result of a one-time gain, thus substantially eliminating the SNVPS Cumulative Impact on our book value. See Note 9 -Equity, to our consolidated financial statements included in this Form 10-K, for detailed discussion of the SNVPS.

Our Portfolio

We have established a portfolio of diversified investments, consisting of performing senior loans, mezzanine loans and CMBS B-Pieces, which had a value of $4,133.5 million as of December 31, 2018.

As we continue to scale our portfolio, we expect that our originations will continue to be heavily weighted toward floating-rate loans. As of December 31, 2018, 99% of our loans by total loan exposure earned a floating rate of interest. We expect the majority of our future investment activity to focus on originating floating-rate senior loans that we finance with our repurchase and other term financing facilities, with a secondary focus on originating floating-rate loans for which we syndicate a senior position and retain a subordinated interest for our portfolio. As of December 31, 2018, our portfolio had experienced no impairments and did not contain any legacy assets that were originated prior to October 2014. As of December 31, 2018, all of our investments were located in the United States. The following charts illustrate the diversification of our portfolio, based on type of investment, interest rate, underlying property type and geographic location, as of December 31, 2018:

[[Image Removed]]

The charts above are based on total assets. Total assets reflect (i) the principal amount of our senior and mezzanine loans; and (ii) the cost basis of our CMBS B-Pieces, net of VIE liabilities. In accordance with GAAP, we carry our CMBS B-Piece investments at fair value. In April 2018, we sold our controlling beneficial interest in four of our five CMBS trusts for net proceeds of $112.7 million. During the year ended December 31, 2018, we had a $2.6 million unrealized loss on the remaining CMBS investment.

(A) Excludes CMBS B-Pieces. Our CMBS B-Piece portfolio diversification is as follows and is inclusive of our $29.6 million investment in RECOP:

Geography: California (23.0%), New York (12.5%) Texas (8.5%) and Other (56.0%). As of December 31, 2018, no other individual geography comprised more than 5% of our total CMBS B�Piece portfolio.

Vintage: 2015 (19.6%), 2016 (10.2%), and 2017 (70.2%).

(B) LTV is generally based on the initial loan amount divided by the as-is appraised value as of the date the loan was originated.

The following table details our quarterly loan activity (dollars in thousands):

Three Months Ended Year Ended March 31, September 30, December 31, December 31, December 31, 2018 June 30, 2018 2018 2018 2018 2017 Loan originations $ 411,425 $ 728,713 $ 680,500 $ 907,982 $ 2,728,620 $ 1,476,075 Loan fundings(A) $ 421,056 $ 590,441 $ 698,047 $ 855,369 $ 2,564,913 $ 1,294,700 Loan repayments(B) (35,000 ) (14,503 ) (281,436 ) (110,840 ) (441,779 ) (68,015 ) Net fundings 386,056 575,938 416,611 744,529 2,123,134 1,226,685 Loan participations sold – – – – – (81,472 ) Non-consolidated senior interest – – – – – (60,991 ) Total activity $ 386,056 $ 575,938 $ 416,611 $ 744,529 $ 2,123,134 $ 1,084,222

(A) Includes initial funding of new loans and additional fundings made under existing loans. Excludes fundings on loan participations sold.

(B) Includes 100.0% of the proceeds from the repayment of one of the mezannine loans held within our commercial mezzanine loan joint venture during the year ended December 31, 2018.

The following table details overall statistics for our loan portfolio as of December 31, 2018 (dollars in thousands):

Total Loan Exposure(A) Balance Sheet Total Loan Portfolio Portfolio Floating Rate Loans Fixed Rate Loans Number of loans 41 41 35 6 Principal balance $ 4,026,713 $ 4,093,868 $ 4,067,638 $ 26,230 Carrying value $ 4,001,820 $ 4,068,975 $ 4,042,745 $ 26,230 Unfunded loan commitments(B) $ 419,485 $ 419,485 $ 419,485 $ – Weighted-average cash coupon(C) 6.0 % 6.0 % L+3.5 % 10.6 % Weighted-average all-in yield(C) 6.5 % 6.5 % L+3.9 % 11.4 % Weighted-average maximum maturity (years)(D) 3.7 3.7 3.7 5.2 LTV(E) 68 % 69 % 68 % 72 %

(A) In certain instances, we finance our loans through the non-recourse sale of a senior interest that is not included in our condensed consolidated financial statements. Total loan exposure includes the entire loan we originated and financed, including $67.2 million of such non-consolidated interests that are not included within our balance sheet portfolio.

(B) Unfunded commitments will primarily be funded to finance property improvements or lease-related expenditures by the borrowers. These future commitments will be funded over the term of each loan, subject in certain cases to an expiration date.

(C) As of December 31, 2018, 100.0% of floating rate loans by principal balance are indexed to one-month USD LIBOR. In addition to cash coupon, all-in yield includes the amortization of deferred origination fees, loan origination costs and purchase discounts. Cash coupon and all-in yield for the total portfolio assume applicable floating benchmark rates as of December 31, 2018. L = one-month USD LIBOR rate; spot rate of 2.50% included in portfolio-wide averages represented as fixed rates.

(D) Maximum maturity assumes all extension options are exercised by the borrower; however, our loans may be repaid prior to such date. As of December 31, 2018, based on total loan exposure, 75.7% of our loans were subject to yield maintenance or other prepayment restrictions and 24.3% were open to repayment by the borrower without penalty.

(E) Based on LTV as of the dates loans were originated or acquired by us.

The table below sets forth additional information relating to our portfolio as of December 31, 2018 (dollars in millions):

Max Committed Current Remaining Principal Principal Net Term Investment(A) Investment Date Amount Amount Equity(B) Location Property Type Coupon(C)(D) (Years)(C)(E) LTV(C)(F) Senior Loans(G) 1 Senior Loan 5/9/2018 $ 350.0 $ 255.2 $ 151.5 Queens, NY Office L+3.3% 4.4 71 % Atlanta, GA / 2 Senior Loan 7/31/2018 341.0 335.5 82.0 Tampa, FL Multifamily L+3.2 4.6 75 Condo 3 Senior Loan 8/4/2017 239.2 170.7 59.4 New York, NY (Residential) L+4.8 1.6 62 4 Senior Loan 12/20/2018 234.5 182.2 43.2 New York, NY Multifamily L+3.6 5.0 70 5 Senior Loan 5/23/2018 213.7 195.4 32.3 Boston, MA Office L+2.4 4.4 69 Minneapolis, 6 Senior Loan 11/13/2017 181.8 159.2 41.1 MN Office L+3.8 3.9 75 7 Senior Loan 9/13/2018 172.0 162.1 36.5 Seattle, WA Office L+3.7 4.8 65 8 Senior Loan 9/9/2016 168.0 159.5 41.7 San Diego, CA Office L+4.2 2.8 71 Philadelphia, 9 Senior Loan 6/19/2018 165.0 143.1 26.4 PA Office L+2.5 4.5 71 10 Senior Loan 12/5/2018 163.0 148.0 20.6 New York, NY Multifamily L+2.6 4.9 67 11 Senior Loan 4/11/2017 162.1 140.8 40.7 Irvine, CA Office L+3.9 3.3 62 12 Senior Loan 10/26/2015 155.0 125.0 49.4 Portland, OR Retail L+5.5 1.8 61 North Bergen, 13 Senior Loan 10/23/2017 150.0 147.8 39.7 NJ Multifamily L+4.3 3.8 57 Fort Lauderdale, 14 Senior Loan 11/9/2018 150.0 140.0 27.3 FL Hospitality L+2.9 4.9 62 West Palm 15 Senior Loan 11/7/2018 135.0 122.0 52.7 Beach, FL Multifamily L+2.9 4.9 73 16 Senior Loan 3/30/2017 132.3 116.5 35.2 Brooklyn, NY Office L+4.4 3.3 68 17 Senior Loan 8/15/2017 119.0 99.8 13.8 Atlanta, GA Office L+3.0 3.7 66 Crystal City, 18 Senior Loan 9/14/2016 103.5 96.8 23.8 VA Office L+4.5 2.8 59 19 Senior Loan 11/20/2018 103.5 81.8 20.9 San Diego, CA Multifamily L+3.2 4.9 74 20 Senior Loan 9/7/2018 93.0 93.0 58.5 Seattle, WA Multifamily L+2.6 4.7 79 21 Senior Loan 3/8/2018 89.0 87.1 14.4 Westbury, NY Multifamily L+3.1 4.3 69 22 Senior Loan 3/29/2018 86.0 86.0 14.1 New York, NY Multifamily L+2.6 4.3 48 23 Senior Loan 2/28/2017 85.9 82.9 15.7 Denver, CO Multifamily L+3.8 3.2 75 24 Senior Loan 8/4/2017 81.0 81.0 17.3 Denver, CO Multifamily L+4.0 3.6 73 25 Senior Loan 3/20/2018 80.7 80.7 18.6 Seattle, WA Office L+3.6 4.3 65 26 Senior Loan 3/28/2018 80.0 71.1 12.0 Orlando, FL Multifamily L+2.8 4.3 70 Philadelphia, . . .

Feb 21, 2019

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Atlanta Real Estate Attorney Guilty Of Embezzling Millions

Atlanta Real Estate Attorney Guilty Of Embezzling Millions

ATLANTA –Nathan E. Hardwick IV has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for orchestrating a scheme to defraud his law firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider (MHS), out of millions of dollars. On October 12, 2018, following a four-week trial, a federal jury convicted Hardwick of wire fraud, conspiracy, and making false statements to a federally insured financial institution. On Tuesday, Hardwick, 53, was sentenced to serve 15 years, forfeit more than $19.9 million in criminal proceed and required to pay restitution to the victims. When released, Hardwick will be required to serve six years on supervised release.

Federal prosecutors said Hardwick and Asha R. Maurya engaged in a scheme to defraud the firm, which specialized in residential real estate closings and foreclosures. The firm employed 800 people in 16 states, and Hardwick was its managing partner and CEO of its title business. He also ran the law firm’s closing division, which was based in Atlanta. Maurya managed MHS’s accounting operations under Hardwick’s supervision.

In early 2007, Hardwick and his law partners sold off part of their business, and Hardwick pocketed approximately $11.8 million. Hardwick quickly squandered that money, however, and by the end of 2010 was broke and deeply in debt.

From January 2011 through August 2014, Hardwick siphoned off more than $26 million to pay his personal debts and expenses and to finance his extravagant lifestyle. More than $19 million of that was client money that was stolen from MHS’s attorney trust accounts. Hardwick spent approximately $18.5 million of the fraud proceeds on gambling, private jets, and more than 50 different social companions.

MHS’s audited financial statements showed that the firm’s combined net income from 2011 through 2013 was approximately $10 million. During that same three-year period, however, Hardwick took more than $20 million out of the firm’s accounts.

Both Hardwick and Maurya made numerous false statements to Hardwick’s law partners concerning the amount of money that Hardwick was taking out of the firm. And Hardwick and Maurya conspired to cover-up the fraud.

Maurya was sentenced to seven years in prison, three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $900,000 in criminal proceeds.

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