By Curt Yeomans
A former Clayton State University professor, and Cobb County-based Realtor, is scheduled to go on trial before a Clayton County Superior Court judge next week to face allegations that he stole $16,800 from four of his students in 2007, according to online court records.
An indictment against Powder Springs resident, Stephen Allen Williams, alleges that he deceitfully misled his students, in January 2007, by giving them the impression that he had an investment in an apartment complex that was allegedly to be built in Florida, and issued unregistered, non-federally-insured promissory notes to the students.
He also allegedly promised his pupils a profitable return on their investment within 90 days of the investment, according to the indictment and Clayton State Director of Public Safety, Chief Bobby Hamil.
Williams is facing 18 charges, including four counts of theft by deception, four counts of theft by taking, five counts of violation of the Georgia Securities Fraud Act, and five counts of violation of the Georgia Securities Act, according to the indictment.
"A review of our records reveals a report that was turned over to Clayton County DA's Office in July 2007, wherein four Clayton State students were among those investors reportedly scammed by Stephen Williams," Hamil said, in a written statement, on Monday. "They were all promised a 25 percent return on their investments into a real estate venture in 90 days."
According to online court records, Williams pleaded not guilty to the charges last month. His case is scheduled to be on Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield's Aug. 23 jury trial calendar.
On June 4, Benefield set bond at a total of $74,000, for the 18 counts Williams is facing, according to a copy of the bench warrant the judge issued for the former professor's arrest. On Monday, officials at the Clayton County Jail said Williams had since been released on bond.
Clayton State Spokesman John Shiffert said Williams taught an investment class as a part-time, adjunct professor in Clayton State's School of Business from March 2005, to March 2007. Shiffert said he was still waiting to hear from former Clayton State School of Business Dean Jacob Chacko, who ran the business school when Williams left, to find out exactly how Williams vacated the teaching position.
As far as the investment goes, however, Lee Sexton, Williams' attorney, said it was the students who initiated discussions about investing their money. "He was teaching a class on investments, and several students came to him about making an investment, and they tendered the money to him," Sexton said.
The attorney said the investment went south because of a series of deaths of people close to Williams, coupled with a weakening economy. "The man he did his investing with died, and then his [Williams'] father died around the same time, and he had to pay for all of the expenses of his father's funeral," Sexton said. "And, then the economy took a downturn, so you had this double strike that's been hard on him."
Sexton, who has been representing Williams since late June, said his client has repaid the debts he owed to the students, though. "He has paid the money he owed in full," the attorney said. "I tendered the checks to the District Attorney's office myself."
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said, since the case is still scheduled to go before a jury at trial, her office could not comment on whether Williams had repaid the students, or if it was possible the charges might be dropped, if the students were repaid.