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Realtor Tom Lindsey sentenced to 54 months in detention center

The Florida Times-Union

March 25, 2008

Realtor sentenced to 54 months in detention center

By Teresa Stepzinski, The Times-Union

BRUNSWICK - A Glynn County Realtor was sentenced Tuesday night to at least 54 months in a detention center for stealing more than a half-million dollars from four friends who went into business with him on real estate projects.

















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Thomas C. Lindsey, 46, of St. Simons Island, also must pay restitution totaling $650,000 to the victims, according to a plea agreement in the case.

Superior Court Judge E.M. Wilkes III sentenced Lindsey following a four-hour hearing in which the victims testified how he betrayed their trust and left them teetering on the brink of financial ruin.

As he pronounced sentence, the judge told Lindsey that his conduct was reprehensible.

"You have taken actions that this court finds equivalent to financial and emotional rape," Wilkes said. "You betrayed the trust of friends who had tremendous confidence in you."

Lindsey pleaded guilty Jan. 3 to four counts of theft by conversion and two counts of theft by deception involving a series of real estate projects and deals beginning in June 2003 on St. Simons Island.

The victims were dentist Mark Sardo and his wife, Cindy; Kathleen Haller; and Cheri Hatala, all of St. Simons Island.

They were among 23 victims cited in a 100-count indictment issued against Lindsey by a Glynn County grand jury last year.

Nineteen of those victims gave up their claims to restitution in exchange for his guilty plea to the theft charges stemming from his deals with the Sardos, Haller and Hatala, Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Miller told the Times-Union.

Prosecutors dismissed the remaining 94 charges in the indictment as part of the plea agreement, court records showed.

Lindsey committed the fraud while the owner and operator of Lindsey Properties Inc. and Tom Lindsey Homes LLC, a District Attorney's Office investigation showed.

On Tuesday, Wilkes sentenced Lindsey to 30 years of probation, ruling that he must spend the first 54 to 60 months of the sentence imprisoned at a state probation detention center.

In Georgia, a probation detention center is a minimum-security facility. Detention center inmates must serve the entire term because they don't receive time off for good behavior, according to state prison officials.

Upon release, Lindsey will spend the remainder of his sentence on probation in the five-county Brunswick Judicial Circuit, Wilkes ruled.

The judge ordered Lindsey to make restitution to the victims as follows: $580,000 to the Sardos, $50,000 to Hatala and $20,000 to Haller.

"The whole thing is, we trusted Tom absolutely ... and he totally violated our trust. I still can't believe it," Cindy Sardo testified before Lindsey was sentenced.

"It's affected everything. We had plans to retire ... We had to take out a second mortgage on our home and Mark had to sign his [dental] practice as collateral," she testified.

Wilkes said Lindsey's real estate license will be suspended while he is on probation. The judge also banned Lindsey from working in real estate, land development or property management while on probation.

Before being sentenced, Lindsey testified he regretted what happened to his friends and attributed it to bad business practices on his account.

His financial problems, which included seeking bankruptcy and a contempt-of-court citation for unpaid child support, were linked to his alcoholism, Lindsey testified.

Lindsey, who showed no emotion, was taken from the courtroom by Glynn County sheriff's deputies to the county detention center to begin serving his sentence.

His family wept, and declined comment.

This story can be found on Jacksonville.com at http://www.jacksonville.com/tu-online/stories/032508/geo_261639295.shtml.

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