VALDOSTA -- Five months after entering a guilty plea to mail and bank fraud, Valdosta attorney Willie J. Linahan received his sentence Wednesday in federal court.

Linahan, 49, and his attorney spent nearly six hours in deliberation before the sentence of 12 months in prison, $26,500 in restitution, $25,000 in fines and five years of supervised release was handed down.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's office said Linahan would serve the entire 12 months.

Among character witnesses for Linahan were Lowndes County School Superintendent Steve Smith and Cecil Mayor Mike Yates.

In June, Linahan asked for voluntary suspension of his bar license, said William P. Smith III, general counsel for the Georgia Bar Association.

Linahan, an attorney for several municipalities in Lowndes County and former Lowndes County Board of Education member, pleaded guilty Feb. 23 in Macon. He was booked by U.S. marshals and was freed on $50,000 unsecured bond. He now will voluntarily surrender some time during the next four to six weeks when he is contacted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons officials.

Linahan was not indicted by a grand jury, but signed a two-count information charge that basically allows a defendant to admit to charges without involving the grand jury.

The charge of mail fraud stems from Linahan's mailing closing documents on March 9, 2000, to a mortgage company where property was purchased at $20,000 and a second party not identified by the court document raised the appraisal value $38,000 and a buyer secured a loan for $58,000. The $26,500 restitution comes from the money lost by the mortgage company.

The bank fraud charge relates to a loan of $395,000 Linahan obtained from First State Bank and Trust in October 1999 to refinance his farm. The bank loaned the money not realizing that Linahan had falsified the title search to show no liens were held by another company. Linahan also never filed a security deed, but compiled information from other documents that he sent to the bank as the purported security deed.

No money was added for restitution charges because Linahan paid this amount back to the bank, the judge decided after evidence was presented by Linahan's attorney.

To contact Tanya B. O'Berry, call 244-3400, ext. 239.

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