August 21, 2009

Government seeks York's money, properties

Macon Telegraph/July 23, 2003
By Rob Peecher
Eatonton -- The U.S. Attorney's office in Macon has filed a civil suit seeking the forfeiture of money and property from cult leader Malachi York.

The property includes the 476-acre Putnam County compound where York and his followers, the United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors, erected pyramids, a sphinx and other Egyptian-style statues. The government also wants York's home that is in an upscale Athens neighborhood. York's followers refer to the home as "the mansion."

Also, U.S. District Court Judge Ashley Royal will preside over York's federal criminal case after Judge Hugh Lawson recused himself, according to the federal clerk of court's office.

Lawson had rejected a negotiated plea agreement between the government and York's defense team because he believed the 15-year negotiated sentence was too lenient. One of York's attorneys said this week that the defense is hopeful that Royal will accept the negotiated plea.

In addition to the two properties being sought through the civil suit, the government is also seeking the forfeiture of $430,000 seized by federal agents who raided the compound and York's Athens home when he was arrested in May of 2002.

U.S. Attorney Max Wood said Tuesday that when Lawson rejected the negotiated plea the government effectively lost the $430,000 which York had forfeited as part of the plea. The civil suit seeks to allow the government to regain that money and adds the two properties.

"What we're doing is we filed a civil action, a forfeiture action, against the money seized back in May of 2002 and against the property, and that is a result of the plea being rejected by Judge Lawson," Wood said.

Though York was for several years the sole owner of the property in Putnam County, shortly before his arrest he deeded the property to three members of his group: Ethel Richardson, Anthony Evans and Patrice Evans. To take the property, the government will have to prove that York effectively maintained control of the property and conducted criminal activity there.

"We have a burden of proving that criminal activity was associated with that property," Wood said.

The three people who hold title to the land "would be entitled to respond to any forfeiture complaint we filed," Wood said.

The government has maintained possession of the cash since it was seized during York's arrest and during the raids on the two properties, and will hold it while it is still subject to civil litigation.

After his arrest, York was indicted by a federal grand jury and a Putnam County grand jury. In January, just before the trial was to begin on the state charges, York pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of attempting to evade federal financial reporting requirements and one count of transporting minors across state lines for the purpose of having sex with them. He then pleaded guilty to 77 state charges mostly involving child molestation and aggravated child molestation.

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