MARIETTA, Ga. -- A local author was sentenced to 12 years and seven months in prison for fraud schemes that bilked victims of $6.5 million.
Mitchell Gross has written and published several novels under the name "Mitchell Graham", but that's not the only alias he used according to U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
Yates said the 61-year-old Marietta man pretended to be a stockbroker named "Michael Johnson" to defraud a woman he met online of nearly $3 million. Yates said Gross defrauded another woman, whom he dated, of about $1.5 million and defrauded a couple of more than $2 million.
Gross pleaded guilty Feb. 21, 2012. He must now also pay $5.8 million in restitution.
According to Yates, the charges and other information presented in court, Gross operated two separate fraud schemes.
In the first scheme, Gross began a romantic relationship with "R.J.," a woman he met through an Internet dating service. Gross told R.J. he was independently wealthy and financially secure, as a result of the successful investment of his funds by "Michael Johnson," supposedly a licensed stock broker employed by a subsidiary of Merrill Lynch known as "The Merrill Company." But "Michael Johnson" was an alias he used and "The Merrill Company" was a fictitious company. R.J. called a phone number provided by Gross and spoke to "Michael Johnson." She was actually speaking to Gross, who disguised his voice to conceal the scheme.
To promote his scheme, Gross sent phony "Merrill Company" account statements to R.J., who wired about $3 million to an account she believed belonged to "The Merrill Company." The account was actually controlled by Gross, who used some of R.J.'s funds to repay a former girlfriend, "J.S.," who had previously been persuaded by Gross to invest funds totaling $1.4 million with "The Merrill Company." Gross also transferred R.J.'s funds into his own personal bank accounts and used them to buy items such as artwork, a luxury automobile and a golf club membership.
In a separate scheme, which Gross conducted simultaneously with the first scheme, he befriended an unmarried couple and held himself out as a successful lawyer and entrepreneur, even though Gross had been disbarred by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1991. Gross convinced the couple that he could represent them in a lawsuit allegedly arising out of the sale of the couple's real estate business.
Over a decade, Gross provided the couple with fake legal papers and phony court documents to lull them into believing that the lawsuit was real and progressing in their favor. In fact, no such lawsuit existed, and the legal fees of $2.2 million that the couple paid Gross were used to fund his personal lifestyle and international travel.
(Atlanta Business Chronicle)