An alleged international land swindle has now reportedly implicated a Forsyth County man in a fraud and racketeering conspiracy, and could place thousands of acres of north Forsyth property in limbo, according to district court records.
Documents recently filed in United States District Court say that in 1994, German multi-millionaire and entrepreneur, Werner Wicker, met Prabhu Paramatma of India, who claimed to be a Hindu spiritual advisor, forming a close relationship with him. Over the years Wicker began placing more and more trust in Paramatma, and eventually gave Paramatma power of attorney over his financial interests.
Around that time, documents state that Paramatma introduced Wicker to Louis Beria, a Forsyth County resident, who he claimed to have expertise in real estate, and together the three began investing more than $100 million in Georgia land deals in Cobb and Forsyth counties.
In the civil lawsuit, Wicker v. Paramatma, which was filed in district court on Jan. 25, 2019, attorneys allege that Beria and Paramatma conspired together and misappropriated or fraudulently obtained millions of dollars from Wicker during a series of large-parcel land investments made in 2014.
The complaint alleges that between 2014 and 2018, Beria, 62, and Paramatma “engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity” by brokering the sale of approximately 1,800 acres of land in north Forsyth for Wicker, while allegedly misrepresenting the prices paid and conspiring to obtain Wicker’s assets in various ways.
In a statement made to the FCN on Friday, attorney C. Joseph Hoffman of Atlanta law firm, Kitchens Kelley Gaynes, P.C., stated that they have no comment on the pending litigation for their clients, Louis Beria, LSC 1 Management Corp., and SAKS Management and Associates LLC, who are all named as defendants in the suit.
Records show that on May 16 and July 3, 2014, Wicker purchased about 750 acres of land in north Forsyth off of Nicholson Road (referred to as the River Property) and about 1,105 acres near Mount Tabor Road (referred to as the Redding Property) through Beria and Paramatma.
According to the complaint, Wicker was led to believe that the price paid for the land was $19,500,000 for the River Property and $36,000,000 for the Redding Property, but purchase agreements included in the complaint show that the true price of the land was $12,100,000 and $22,000,000, respectively.
“On information and belief, the defendants misappropriated the difference in the contractual purchase price and what they caused (Wicker) to pay,” the complaint states.
The complaint also alleges that the defendants “fraudulently induced plaintiff to enter into land clearing agreements” for the two properties, with LSC 1 Management Corp — a “Foreign Profit Corporation” that Beria is chief executive officer, chief financial officer and secretary of, according to the Georgia Secretary of State.
The complaint states that Wicker paid $11,700,000 to LSC 1 Management for land clearing agreements on the Redding Property and $9,000,000 for the River Property.
“By inducing (Wicker) to execute these Land Clearing Agreements, defendants vastly misrepresented the nature and scope of work that need to be done and the cost therefor,” the complaint states.
It also alleges that contracts for both land clearing agreements are illegal and void because LSC 1 is “not a licensed general contractor under Georgia law.”
In June 2015, Wicker’s land investments extended out of Forsyth County, when he purchased the Westminster Square Apartments in Marietta through the defendants for $43,500,000 under a new company name, Wicker LLC, the complaint states.
“Although the purchase agreement and closing statement reflect a purchase price of $43,500,000 for the Westminster Apartments, Defendants submitted doctored documents to (Wicker) reflecting a purchase price of $48,900,000 claiming that an entity called Loti Investment Group was entitled to $5,400,000 for services associated with the transaction,” court documents state.
Beria allegedly told Wicker that LoTi Investment Group was “instrumental to the transaction” of the apartment property, was owed money from the transaction, was powerful and politically connected, and could seek retribution if they were not paid, the complaint states.
“Unbeknownst to (Wicker), Beria (through LSC 1) was actually a part owner of the entity he deviously describes as ‘this group of Loti Investment,’” the complaint states. “(Wicker) ultimately paid LoTi $4,515,000 as was ‘strongly recommended’ by Beria.”
The complaint also details how Beria and Paramatma allegedly attempted to gain control of a larger portion of Wicker’s Georgia real-estate assets by forming a new company and transferring assets to that company.
The complaint states that in 2014 “one or more of the defendants” allegedly directed a Georgia attorney to form Wicker LLC, with Paramatma allegedly made as 50-percent member.
In 2017, Paramatma’s 50-percent interest in the company was allegedly reinforced, the complaint states, when another Wicker LLC operating agreement was signed “purporting to designate (Wicker) and Paramatma as the members of the company.”
“Although (Wicker) funded at least $99,000,000 to purchase the Forsyth Properties and Westminster Apartments (plus millions in other costs) and Paramatma did not pay anything or make any capital contribution, Paramatma now claims to have a 50 percent interest in Wicker, LLC which owns these properties,” the complaint states.
Wicker was allegedly never given a copy of this operating agreement and the complaint states that he did not give the defendants authorization to sign on his behalf.
Forsyth County property tax records show that in the years since their purchase the entirety of Wicker’s Forsyth County property, 1,776.16 acres, has been transferred from his personal ownership to that of Wicker LLC.
According to Cobb County tax records, Westminster Square Apartments is now owned by Saks Management and Associates LLC. The property was purchased by Wicker LLC in June 2015, and was sold to Saks Management and Associates LLC in July 2017 for $26,700,000.
In the complaint, Saks Management and Associates LLC is listed as a defendant and is described as “Beria’s company,” though no explanation is given for how Beria is associated with the company.
Property tax records show that Saks Management and Associates is registered to the same agent as LSC 1 Management Corp, which is reportedly managed by Beria.
“It is apparent that the defendants misappropriated millions in rental income and fraudulently recorded a deed purporting to steal Westminster Apartments,” the complaint states.
The complaint states that the alleged fraud was finally discovered by Wicker in December 2018 in connection with a pending New York lawsuit “in which (Wicker) and Paramatma are defendants.”
After the alleged fraud was discovered, the complaint states that Wicker’s lawyers “demanded on Paramatma and Beria/LSC 1 to provide (Wicker) with documents relating to the above referenced transactions and the financial affairs of Wicker” but so far defendants have failed to provide that information.
Paramatma was also asked by Wicker to confirm he had no interest in Wicker LLC and to surrender any purported interest he claimed to have.
“Although Paramatma told (Wicker) he was only listed as a 50% member for ‘insurance reasons,’ he refused (Wicker's)requests (but did state that he would do so in exchange for a settlement and a release for his actions),” the complaint states.
The complaint is also asking the court for several different remedies for the alleged charges, including recognition of Wicker as “the sole member and manager of Wicker LLC,” as well as additional punitive damages.
Attorneys Bret Adam Beldt and Gregory F. Harley of Atlanta law practice Burr & Forman LLP are listed in the complaint as Wicker’s attorneys. As of press time, neither Beldt, nor Harley responded to attempts by the FCN to reach them for comment on the lawsuit.
Records show that this case will be presided over by United States District Court Judge Richard W. Story.