Originally published on Oct. 5, 2006
John Gill Jr., the Phenix City businessman who operated payday lending operations across the nation, including Columbus, faces 10 years in prison after his sentencing on Wednesday in a Florida court.
Gill, 48, of 402 River Oak Way, was sentenced by First Judicial Circuit Court Judge Frank Bell to 10 years in a Florida prison followed by 10 years probation, said Russ Edgar, assistant state attorney. The sentence stems from an August conviction by a Pensacola, Fla., jury on the charge of unlawfully conducting a business enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity. The charge was based on payday lending businesses Gill operated.
Gill cannot be involved in any lending business during his probation, and he must pay restitution to his victims, though the amount hasn't yet been set.
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"This is the first criminal case of this nature brought against a payday lender that I know of in the United States," Edgar said.
Edgar said the law allows restitution of up to three times what was taken --- in this case, $1.5 million. "We think that's a conservative estimate," Edgar said.
Gill requested an appeal bond, which Bell granted. Edgar said Gill is currently being held under a $1 million bond.
Gill has interest in more than 400 Muscogee County properties that include everything from shotgun houses to strip malls.
Accusations of predatory lending have followed Gill across several states, including Georgia. In the Florida case, Gill was accused of operating an illegal loan company under the guise of a business that sold time on the Internet. Someone would borrow $500 and sign a contract that said he would get $600, but Gill would take the first $100 as the first payment, prosecutors said.
Borrowers would then have to return every two weeks and make a $100 payment. If someone canceled the contract, he would have to pay a penalty fee, prosecutors said.