By Stan Welch
Easley attorney Candy Kern Fuller, and her company Upstate Law Group, has come out on the wrong end of a ruling by an administrative judge in Arizona. The judge, ruling on Fuller’s actions related to a scheme to buy veterans’ benefits from them – a violation of state and federal law, according to the judge – has imposed fines of $480,000 and has also directed the reimbursement of approximately $2.5 million in to more than twenty investors who lost their life savings in the scheme.
As early as 2011, Fuller became involved in the scheme. The judge’s ruling asserts that her law firm, Upstate Law Group, served as banker, legal counsel and debt collector. Veterans facing financial difficulties were encouraged and recruited to accept a lump sum payment in exchange for signing over their benefits. The basis of the ruling is that such an arrangement is illegal. Fuller’s attorneys have argued that the benefits were not ‘regulated investments’ and therefore her actions were not illegal. The judge’s ruling will have to be ratified by the Arizona Corporate Commission.
The latest setback is not Fuller’s first. In early 2009 following former county administrator Joey Preston’s abrupt departure from Anderson County, County Councilwoman Gracie Floyd introduced Fuller to the newly installed council as her personal attorney. Fuller than proceeded to challenge the council’s decision not to hire former assistant administrator Michael Cunningham. At the November 2008 meeting at which the lame duck council inexplicably awarded Preston a $1.2 million severance package – later referred to by S.C. Chief Justice Jean Toal as a golden parachute – Floyd had produced an employment contract to hire Cunningham; a contract that was offered and approved with no job search or any compliance with the county’s hiring policies. The new Council, sworn in at the January 2009 meeting, immediately rescinded the contract , much to the chagrin of Floyd and her personal attorney, who spent the next few years ineffectively suing the county on Cunningham and Preston’s behalf.
Floyd has repeatedly berated the council for its legal expenditures related to those lawsuits, while conveniently neglecting the fact that she played a major role in instigating those legal actions. Seeing her conduct as an attempt to get the county to drop its legal defense, several councils insisted on standing firm, leading to an eventual ruling that Preston return the monies he received.
In fact, she still employs Fuller, in her attempt to stop the construction of a housing development in her district that will utilize the recent concept of tiny homes for veterans and others facing homelessness due to their circumstances. Fuller is the attorney of record in her lawsuit against the Anderson County Planning Commission. The impact of the developing circumstances on Floyd’s efforts against the county remains to be seen.
Fuller was also involved in a Ponzi scheme which landed former District Six County Councilman Ron Wilson in federal prison for a sentence of nineteen years; a scheme that swindled investors out of more than sixty million dollars. Both Preston and Fuller claimed to be Wilson’s victims; claims that federally appointed managers later debunked. Both were shown to have profited significantly from their participation.
Fuller also served as a member of Preston’s legal team over the course of several years, during which Preston sought to retain the money paid by the county into the state retirement fund. Earlier this year, that effort was once again denied by the S.C. Supreme Court.
By Stan Welch