Columbus, Georgia man convicted over bogus farm loan scheme



A former Columbus loan officer who defrauded banks out of $648,000 in loans to bogus farmers will spend more than three years in federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Marc T. Treadwell of Macon sentenced 33-year-old William Spigener III to 40 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to defraud a financial institution.

On Wednesday, the judge also ordered Spigener to pay $474,148 in restitution to AgGeorgia Farm Credit and $174,489 to AgSouth Farm Credit.

Spigener’s accomplices in the scheme, Johnnie Farrow, 66; Eary Fuller, 57; and Demetria Bell, 50; all of Macon, were also convicted of conspiracy to defraud a financial institution. They have not yet been sentenced.

Federal investigators said Spigener from February 2012 to 2019 was a loan officer in Perry, where he conspired to defraud AgSouth Farm Credit and AgGeorgia Farm Credit by recruiting his co-defendants to pose as legitimate borrowers.

In exchange for using their personal information and participating in loan closings, Spigener gave Farrow, Fuller and Bell about 10% of the loans, agents said.

Although Spigener created documents to ensure loan applications were approved, its cohorts in the program were not active farmers and had no collateral to secure the loans, authorities said.

Spigener repaid some of the loans but was unable to repay “the vast majority” of the debt, causing losses to both institutions, federal authorities said.

Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Alabama, and started as a police reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. Since then, he has covered serial killings and other Columbus homicides, following some from the crime scene to to the verdicts of the trial and subsequent appeals. . He has also been a humor columnist for Ledger-Enquirer since 1987. He graduated from Auburn University and started working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.

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