Wayne Mason in a 2013 photo. His attorney, former Gov. Roy Barnes, says the latest lawsuit is baseless.
Photo: AJC file
Photo: AJC file

Suit: Ex-Gwinnett chairman stiffed creditors

Plaintiff says Wayne Mason shifted assets to relatives; his lawyer says suit baseless.

Relatives and businesses connected to real estate tycoon and former Gwinnett County Commission Chairman Wayne Mason are being sued by a creditor claiming Mason improperly transferred $137 million in assets to avoid paying judgments in other court cases.

An attorney for Mason and his relatives, former Gov. Roy Barnes, said the suit is baseless.

Filed this month in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the suit alleges Mason transferred assets to his wife, other relatives, companies and a family trust. The suit says the transfers, which include cash, stock and land along the Atlanta Beltline, started in 2007 as the economy plunged toward recession.

“Wayne made the Transfers with actual intent to hinder, delay, or defraud his present and future creditors, such as Plaintiff,” the suit alleges. Mason used the assets as collateral to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, the complaint said.

The latest lawsuit arose out of two civil judgments in Liberty and Gwinnett counties that found Mason owed more than $6 million from defaulted real estate loans, according to the court filing. The rights to those judgments later were sold to a third party, Edgefield Holdings, which is suing to collect the debts.

The suit was filed under seal July 13. An amended complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Friday.

An earlier effort by the plaintiffs to obtain a temporary restraining order to prevent defendants from further transfers was denied by the judge.

“We do not believe that the case has any foundation or is meritorious,” said Barnes, the Mason family’s attorney. He declined further comment other than to say “we look forward to a favorable resolution on the matter on our behalf.”

Edgefield wants a receiver appointed to manage assets at the heart of the case and is still seeking to enjoin the defendants from further transfers.

Mason ranks among Gwinnett’s most powerful figures, both as a developer and as commission chairman from 1977 to 1980. He faced numerous grand jury investigations while in office but was never charged with wrongdoing.

The suit lists properties transferred to other entities including land across the northern metro area, retail centers and office space in Gwinnett and the building that housed the notorious former Gold Club in Buckhead.

Edgefield is a unit of Rialto Capital Management, a company that has acquired the rights to debt litigation that arose out of failed and troubled banks. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or struggling banks sold loans to entities like Rialto, which picked up the time and expense of litigation.

Rialto is a unit of homebuilder Lennar Corp.

The amended complaint names Mason’s wife Annette and daughter Jaime Mason Hamil among defendants. Other defendants include a company known as K.W. Mason (which counts Mason’s son and noted Atlanta lawyer Keith Mason as an officer), Lone Pine Inc. (Mason’s principle business), Mason Capital and The Mason Family Trust.

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