Man behind proposed hotel in Gwinnett County under indictment
GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga -- The Dacula resident who is proposing a massive ferris wheel shaped hotel for Gwinnett County is under indictment in Oconee County for alleged fraud against investors.
Richard Beaton of Escapades International, Inc. faces 15 counts including forgery, theft by taking and violating the Georgia Securities Act.
Oconee County Sheriff's Office investigator Lt. David Kilpatrick says Beaton was talking about his plans for a major restaurant in Gwinnett County back in 2007. Several investors came forward to authorites saying that when they asked for their money back Beaton wrote them bad checks totaling more than $300,000.
In another case Kilpatrick said Beaton showed a bogus $1 million bank deposit to Escapades International, Inc. to try to secure an investiment.
"Since then we have been investigating Mr. Beaton and the grand jury has come back with an indictment that covers findings from our initial investigation and more," Kilpatrick said.
Last week, Beaton showed 11 Alive News his ambitious plans for 421 acres between the the Mall of Georgia and the Gwinnett Braves Baseball Stadium.
Beaton said then that he had investors ready to sign on the dotted line to pay for a futuristic, disc-shaped $115 million hotel with 23 stories. He also has plans for an 800-seat Mardi gras style restaurant.
Kilpatrick said it is that same restaurant that several investers in Oconee County agreed to finance back in 2007. When they backed out, authorites say Beaton left them high and dry.
Beaton now admits he failed to mention that he was under indictment when he met with 11Alive News last week, but says the whole thing is a legal misunderstanding.
"I was not in the position to be able to pay them off until the end of last year. Now that I'm able to pay them off the DA has not let me do that. He will not drop the case," said Beaton.
Lt. Kilpatrick said Oconee County's new District Attorney, David Lock, has extensive knowledge about securities fraud.
"When [Lock] took a look at the case, he decided to have a grand jury weigh on it. Our fear is that Beaton was running a large scheme and that may still be going on," said Kilpatrick.
Beaton insists current investors for his project know about the indictiment and understand that part of the agreement is to allow him to pay up former investors first.
"The hotel and restaurant can definitely still happen. My investors are aware that I am trying to get things in order so that we can move forward," said Beaton.