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Attorney gets 5 years for bilking clients

A Fayetteville attorney who bilked his clients of more than $647,000 was sentenced Tuesday to five years in prison and an additional 25 years probation.
Howard Geoffrey “Geoff” Slade Sr., 62, pled guilty to all 12 counts he was charged with, all but two being theft by taking while acting in a fiduciary capacity. The remaining two were theft by taking charges.

While Slade expressed remorse in a statement to the court, he never explained where the money went, a fact noted by presiding Superior Court Judge Arch McGarity who handled the case after all four Superior Court judges in the Griffin Judicial Circuit recused themselves because Slade practiced here.

In the wake of the money Slade admitted to pilfering was at least one broken marriage; another wife who felt guilt for not trusting her husband’s request to get her money from Slade because she trusted him; and more.

Two Fayette County developers were among the other 12 victims in the case. One of the victims was an invalid woman who was supposed to receive half of the proceeds from a house sold as part of an estate. The victim never got that money.

In one case, Slade misappropriated $80,000 that was paid by a defendant to settle a $100,000 debt. But Slade’s client never authorized the settlement and furthermore, never saw any of that $80,000 that was paid.

Another client of Slade’s in a divorce case was ordered to pay more than $13,000 as part of a court order. He paid the money to Slade, who in turn failed to pay the client’s ex-wife. The client had to pony up the money a second time to keep himself in good standing with the court.

One of the victims, who was owed more than $289,000 from proceeds of a real estate transaction, said she tried for months on end to get Slade to repay her. One time he gave her a check with insufficient funds. Then came a laundry list of excuses, including that he would pay $25,000 at one time, $50,000 at another. He offered to give the victim his share of a beachside condominium. Lastly, he offered to make the victim a beneficiary of his life insurance policy.

Last year Slade voluntarily surrendered his license to practice law.

Slade’s attorney, Tom Cook, asked the court to consider a straight probation sentence so his client could begin to pay restitution in the case. The Fayette County District Attorney’s Office sought a 10-year prison sentence with an additional 10 years probation.

Judge McGarity agreed to sentence Slade as a first offender, and said he would not be willing to throw him back in jail for violating probation as long as he pays “something” back to the victims in terms of restitution.

Cook noted that Slade has lost his office and home to foreclosure since the arrest. He also said Slade cooperated with sheriff’s deputies and revealed to them several other incidents they previously had been unaware of.

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