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Fake Developer Who Scammed Florida County of $1.4M Ordered to Repay Full Amount, Judge Rules


Court records show that the guy who stole $1.4 million from Manatee County by pretending to be a local developer has been told to pay the money back.

Timothy Ledford, 27, pleaded not guilty in May to fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors say he and two others stole more than $1 million from the Manatee County Clerk of Court by pretending to be Neal Land and Neighborhoods, a developer from Lakewood Ranch.

Court records show that Circuit Judge Matt Whyte gave Ledford a term of 11 months and 29 days in jail and 25 years of probation. Whyte also told Ledford to make amends by paying the Manatee County Clerk of Court $1,370,631.

Court records show that restitution payments must begin within 60 days of starting probation and are due in equal payments of $1,400 on the first of every month.

Ledford will get credit for time served since he has already been in jail for about 11 months.

Police say Ledford is one of three men who are being charged with fraud in the $1 million plan.

Prosecutors say that the cases against Ezekiel Deshaun Chester and Ibrahima Biteye, who are accused of working with Ledford, are still open and waiting.

Chester has a meeting in court on July 31.

A news story from Fox 5 Atlanta said that Biteye was arrested for another fraud scheme in 2020 after he was seen allegedly stealing checks from a mailbox in Georgia for cash.

Deputy State Attorney Justin Foster, who is in charge of the case against the three men, told the Bradenton Herald on Tuesday that Ledford “agreed to testify truthfully and consistently with his prior statements to law enforcement” in any trial involving Chester or Biteye as part of his plea deal.

The lawyers for Ledford and Chester did not reply right away to the Bradenton Herald’s request for comment.

Someone from the Clerk of Court’s office, Jennifer Linzy, said that the office has collected almost $510,000 and plans to make a “full recovery” of the $1.4 million.

In July 2023, the clerk of the circuit court and comptroller for Manatee County, Colonneso, thanked the sheriff’s office for a “quick investigation” and told the Bradenton Herald the following:

Colonneso wrote in an email, “Fraud can’t always be stopped. We will be working with the sheriff’s office to find out more about how this cybercrime was carried out so that we can work with the county to improve our current controls even more, since all protocols were followed during the transfer.”

They were brought back to Manatee County to face charges, even though they both live in Georgia.

“Very sophisticated fraud”

In June 2023, Ledford was arrested by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office after a probe showed what Angel Colonneso, Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller of Manatee County, had called “a highly sophisticated fraud.”

After Chester came up to Ledford with an idea for a way to make money, the scam began, Ledford told police in an interview.

According to the arrest report, Ledford then gave Chester information about his account. After the fraudulent wire transfers were done, the two went to different bank offices together and took cashier’s checks out.

Detectives say that Ledford pretended to be a worker for Neal Land and Neighborhoods and asked to be paid for work on an extension to Fort Hamer Road in Parrish.

What’s the matter? The head of the company told the Bradenton Herald in the past that Neal never asked the county for payment.

The Clerk’s Office of Manatee County sent an email to real Neal Land agents in March 2023, telling them how much Manatee County would pay for their services.

That’s when police say an unknown third party, who they now think is Ledford, started calling the clerk’s office as Neal’s agents. Detectives say that Ledford asked the clerk’s office to change the payment from a check that was written in person to a wire transfer.

Deputies say that a man from Georgia pretended to be a local developer. Ledford sent fake papers on Neal Land letterheads asking for the change, along with a fake W-9 tax form, a standby letter of credit, and a letter of account verification.

After a little more than a week, the clerk’s office is said to have sent $221,165 to Ledford’s bank account through a wire transfer.

An arrest report says that the account had $3.17 in it before the wire move.

A few days later, a wire transfer of $1,149,466 was sent to one of Ledford’s accounts for the next payment that was meant to be made to Neal Land and Neighborhoods. This was the next scheduled payment.

Monthly account records showed that Ledford spent a lot of money on daily purchases and moved a lot of money to another bank account. However, the arrest report did not say what he was accused of buying.

The Bradenton Herald earlier reported that Bank of America shared surveillance photos of Ledford making several withdrawals.

Later, Neal asked the county when Neal Land and Neighborhoods should expect to get paid. The county said they had already moved the money, which led to an investigation by the sheriff’s office.

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