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Local business owner to be sentenced on April 24

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

After months of remaining in the Madison County Jail for two open cases, a local business owner pled guilty as charged before the Madison County Court on Wednesday, April 10. Sentencing for David Lawton is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 24, at 9 a.m., at the Madison County Courthouse.

According to court officials, Lawton pled guilty to the following four charges: organized fraud, scheme to defraud, less than $20,000; grand theft third degree; fraudulent use of a credit card; and exploitation of the elderly, lack of consent.

On Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, Lawton was arrested by the Remerton Police Department (RPD), in Lowndes County, Ga., on an outstanding warrant issued out of Madison County, for grand theft in the third degree. He was later released from the Madison County Jail on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, after posting a $5,000 bond on the charges of grand theft in the third degree and organized fraud, scheme to defraud, less than $20,000.

The Madison Police Department (MPD) had received numerous complaints in regards to Lawton, who owns First Class Wireless, located at 177 SW Horry St., in Madison. Multiple complainants stated that after paying their bill to Duke Energy through Lawton's business, their power would later be turned off, with Duke Energy informing those consumers that their bill was never paid. According to MPD Sergeant David Spicer, at the time, multiple reports were received and information was compiled by the MPD and sent to the State Attorney's Office. Greene Publishing, Inc. contacted Jeff Seigmeister, State Attorney of the Third Judicial Circuit of Florida, who informed reporters that the State Attorney did in fact issue the warrant for Lawton's arrest in reference to the complaints received by MPD.

While out on bond, Lawton was arrested again in December by the Madison County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) after a probable cause affidavit was filed by the MPD on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.

According to the initial incident report filed by MPD on Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, MPD Officer J. Bennett was dispatched to the MPD in reference to a fraud that had already occurred. Upon arrival, Officer Bennett made contact with a resident of Madison who stated that she received her statement from the bank and found several charges she did not make. The victim stated that there were four charges on her account and found that they came from First Class Wireless, located in Madison. The victim continued to state that she went up to Capital City Bank, in Tallahassee, Fla., and received a copy of the transactions made on her account. She later deactivated her card.

The MPD reports that the victim detailed the following charges on their respective dates: $650 on Sept. 28, 2018; $975 on Oct. 9, 2018; $1,795 on Oct. 11, 2018; and $1,275 on Oct. 14, 2018, totaling approximately $4,695.

The following day, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018, MPD Sgt. Spicer made contact with the victim and a sworn statement was obtained. According to the activity report, the victim stated that she purchased a phone from First Class Wireless in March of 2017. In November of 2017, the victim's phone was disconnected and she notified her service provider. At that time, her bill was reduced and the victim began paying her provider directly for service. In September of 2018, the victim took her damaged phone to First Class Wireless and requested that Lawton attempt to retrieve a number of photos from the phone, while discussing the possible purchase of a new phone. The battery was dead, prompting her to leave it with Lawton to recharge. After returning home, the victim had second thoughts about Lawton keeping her phone and it was retrieved from the business.

According to the activity report, the victim felt that Lawton was upset with her for not purchasing a new phone. It was approximately one week after that encounter that the four unauthorized transactions from her account to the business occurred.

After consulting with the State Attorney's Office, a probable cause affidavit was completed and was forwarded for review. Lawton was arrested by the MCSO on Monday, Dec. 10, 2018, and charged with fraudulent use of a credit card and exploitation of the elderly/lack of consent. After being transported to the Madison County Jail, Lawton was released after posting a $500 cash only bond, $250 for each count.

After the State Attorney's Office filed a motion to revoke the bond of Lawton, posted on Oct. 9, 2018, Lawton's pre-trial release was officially revoked on Monday, Feb. 11, and he was transported to the Madison County Jail, where he remained until being released by the court on Wednesday, April 10, before the sentencing on Wednesday, April 24.

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