Updated: Fri, 02/01/2013 - 08:31

Seven former First National Bank officials plead not guility in bank fraud case

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The former president and six officers of First National Bank on Thursday pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges in a 35-count indictment that accuse them of scheming to defraud the bank and other institutions out of millions of dollars.

Defense attorneys entered pleas during an initial appearance for:

• Heys Edward McMath III, 58, who served as the president and CEO. McMath is charged with conspiracy, bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds and false statements to influence a bank.

• Stephen Michael Little, 65, who served as the executive vice president and CFO. Little is charged with conspiracy and bank fraud.

• Robert Wilson Dailey, 51, who served as the city president and senior lending officer. Dailey is charged with conspiracy, bank fraud and false entries made in bank records.

• Jay Patrick Gardner, 62, who served as a vice president and the chief credit officer. Gardner is charged with conspiracy and bank fraud.

• Isaac Jefferson Mulling, 53, who served as a senior vice president and commercial loan officer. Mulling is charged with conspiracy, bank fraud, false statements to influence a bank and false entries made in bank records.

• Alan Robert Fleming, 36, who served as the city president of the Tybee Island branch and a commercial loan officer. Fleming is charged with conspiracy, bank fraud, misapplication of bank funds, false statements to influence a bank and false entries made in bank records.

• Jeffrey Allen Farrell, 44, who served as the city president of the Richmond Hill branch and a commercial loan officer. Farrell is charged with conspiracy, bank fraud, false statements to influence a bank and false entries made in bank records.

U.S. Magistrate Judge G.R. Smith set unsecured bonds of $50,000 for all defendants except Little for whom a $100,000 bond was set.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durham, who is heading the government’s prosecution team, told Smith prosecutors considered the case “complex” because of the extensive evidence.

“Discovery is enormous,” Durham said.

Smith will allow defense lawyers 90 days to prepare their pre-trial motions, and prosecutors will have an additional 60 days to respond.

Defense lawyers normally get 10 days to file motions before Smith. Also Thursday, Durham told Smith U.S. District Judge William T. Moore Jr. has removed himself from handling the case, which has been re-assigned to Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood in Brunswick.

Prosecutors contend the long-running scheme contributed to the failure of First National Bank in 2010, which will cost the FDIC deposit-insurance fund more than $90 million.

First National Bank closed its doors and was taken over by the government in the summer of 2010. It remains in receivership of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The Savannah Bank took over its deposits and operations of its four branches.

The indictment comes on the heels of the 2011 prosecution of Savannah real estate developer Richard Guerard for scheming with First National Bank officials and employees to defraud the bank and others to cover loan shortfalls for two of his companies.

Guerard pleaded guilty in May 2011 and was sentenced to 52 months in federal prison in August 2011.

According to allegations in the indictment, as First National Bank’s financial condition began to deteriorate, the defendants schemed to hide millions of dollars in non-performing loans from the bank, members of the bank’s board of directors and from federal regulators.

According to the indictments, the defendants loaned money to unqualified individuals to make interest and other payments on other non-performing loans; enticing others to take over non-performing loans with hidden promises, side deals and other terms unfavorable to First National Bank; and recruiting other banks to fund non-performing loans based on fraudulent misrepresentations about the quality of the loans.

The defendants also falsified and fabricated numerous bank documents and records, the government charges.

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