October 31, 2012
A federal judge denied bail to an Albemarle County real estate developer Wednesday. Michael Wayne Harding is accused of seven counts of fraud and money laundering.
When his defense attorney asked the court to order a pre-trial release, U.S. magistrate judge B. Waugh Crigler denied the request, saying Harding is not trustworthy.
Harding is alleged to have created fake invoices to secure mortgages for HMC Holdings, a company for which Harding was the president and only employee. He is then accused of having checks from the mortgage companies converted for his own personal use.
Harding filed for personal bankruptcy in April 2011. The indictment alleged that, during his bankruptcy proceedings, Harding filed false monthly operating reports, lied about forging signatures and failed to deposit all income into his debtor-in-possession account.
Margaret Garber, an attorney involved in Harding's bankruptcy case, testified Wednesday that Harding did not file required monthly operating reports for several months.
Harding was required to close all accounts other than his debtor-in-possession account.
The prosecution said a check was written from a personal account bearing Harding's name during a time when Harding said he had closed all additional accounts.
The prosecution asked the judge to detain Harding, saying the government's primary concern was not flight risk but inconsistencies in Harding's testimony and refusal to abide by rules, arguing he can't be supervised.
The defense argued it would be "incredibly difficult" for Harding to carry on any business, let alone criminal activity, if released.
A probation officer familiar with the background of the charges told the court, if Harding were released on bail, it would take 10 to 15 man hours a week and require probation officers specializing in real estate.
The judge denied a pre-trial release, stating Harding is not trustworthy, rewrites his own rules and said there is no telling what Harding would do without a probation officer "camped out at his house."
"I've never seen a bail case that's been more clear and convincing than this," Judge Crigler told the courtroom.
Harding is the brother of Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding.
His trial is scheduled for January 3, 2013. If convicted on all seven counts, Harding faces up to 115 years in prison and/or fines up to $3.75 million.
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