Business owners up stakes in Macon fraud case

A group of metro Atlanta residents who are suing a Macon businessman, claiming he defrauded them of about $5.2 million, have amended their lawsuit to also levy allegations of racketeering, according to Bibb County court records.

The original civil lawsuit alleges Austin Sapp Jr., owner of Confederate Land Company Inc. and Splash and Dash Laundry Inc., overstated past income and revenues of the businesses — including car washes, a mini-storage warehouse and a coin-operated laundry in Bibb and Pulaski counties — to influence the group to buy the businesses in April 2007.

The owners and members of Show N Tell Car Wash LLC and SSMH Holdings LLC, Stacy Smith, Steven Duer, Noah Murphy and Mike Hofrichter, allege Sapp and his companies manipulated the businesses’ computers to overstate sales.

According to the suit filed in Bibb County Superior Court in February 2008, Sapp provided the group with fraudulent written records, including false business records and incorrect tax returns.

Sapp and his companies denied wrongdoing in a written answer filed March 21, 2008, in response to the original lawsuit, according to court records.

An amendment to the lawsuit filed Aug. 4 accuses Sapp of racketeering by his allegedly committing theft by deception, mail fraud, interstate transportation of fraudulently obtained money and perjury.

The amendment also alleges Sapp gave a man $500 to buy crack cocaine and instructed him to plant the drugs at a car wash owned by the plaintiffs. He then allegedly told his employee the plaintiffs were using the car wash to operate a crack cocaine sales business and instructed her to call law enforcement, according to court records.

Bibb County Sheriff’s Office spokesman deputy Sean Defoe confirmed the sheriff’s office responded to the car wash after receiving a tip June 20, 2008.

He said no charges were filed because there wasn’t sufficient evidence of criminal activity. No criminal case has been filed in Bibb County Superior Court, according to court records.

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Hubert Lovein Jr., could not be reached for comment.

Phone calls to Sapp, of LaGrange Court in Macon, were not answered. His attorney, John McGoldrick Jr., declined to comment.

McGoldrick filed a motion to dismiss the Aug. 4 amended complaint on Monday, arguing the plaintiffs violated procedure in making the allegations, which all allegedly occurred after the initial lawsuit was filed. Because procedure was violated, he wrote that the claims should be dismissed, according to court records.

Sapp has filed a counterclaim against Murphy, Show N Tell Car Wash LLC and SSMH Holdings alleging Murphy made slanderous statements to a customer of one of the purchased businesses.

He further alleges the plaintiffs acted in bad faith and have put him to unnecessary trouble and expense, according to the records.

The case could go to trial as early as September.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.