APNewsBreak: Ga. Author To Plead Guilty To Scam

Published February 16, 2012 7:27PM (EST)

ATLANTA (AP) — An author of legal thrillers and a fantasy trilogy who was charged with scamming two women he met on a Jewish dating site out of millions of dollars is planning to plead guilty to some charges, his attorney said on Thursday.

Mitchell Gross' attorney Jerry Froelich declined to say which charges his client would plead to at a federal court hearing on Tuesday. The wire fraud and money laundering charges he faces could carry a maximum prison sentence of decades behind bars.

Gross, whose books include the suspense story "Circle of Lies," was charged in October with duping least two women into investing about $4.4 million in a sham company he set up, using some of the money to buy expensive artwork, a luxury car and a golf club membership.

The 61-year-old author pleaded not guilty to the charges at a court hearing in October.

Authorities said Gross began a romantic relationship with a woman identified in court documents as "R.J.," but identified in court as Robbie Johnson. They met through an online Jewish dating site around June 2006 and he bragged about making a lot of money by investing with a broker named "Michael Johnson" who was employed by "The Merrill Company," the records show.

Johnson called the broker to talk over the investments, but it was actually Gross speaking in a disguised voice on the other line, prosecutors said. She then wired close to $3 million to an account she believed belong to the company but actually did not exist, prosecutors said. Gross concealed the scheme by sending her phony tax forms and account statements, they added.

Then, investigators said they discovered he was using the woman's funds to repay an ex-girlfriend, identified as "J.S." She was earlier duped into investing at least $1.4 million with the phony firm, prosecutors said.

Johnson, a Florida real estate agent, claimed in a March 2008 lawsuit against Gross that soon after meeting her online, he falsely told her that celebrities had optioned his books and that he had fallen in love with her. They took vacations together to Japan, Panama and Brazil, and Johnson hosted a "Meet Mitch" party to introduce him to her friends.

But after he got the money — about $2.95 million — he started making excuses to avoid spending time with her, and delayed moving in together, the lawsuit said. The relationship ended in March 2008, when she discovered the account she was pumping money into was set up under Gross' name.

Gross, who lives in metro Atlanta, has written six books under the Mitchell Graham pen name, including a three-part science fiction series and a legal thriller called "Dead Docket." Court records also say he wrote "Circle of Lies" under the pen name Douglas Alan.

By Salon Staff

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