Real estate fraud lawsuit linked to key players in Atlanta bribery investigation

The FOX 5 I-Team has found key players in the ongoing Atlanta bribery investigation were once embroiled in a lawsuit alleging fraud.

The suit was filed by a prominent Atlanta businessman, Calvin Darden in August 2013. He accused E.R. Mitchell and his “business partner”, Mitzi Bickers, of fraud.

E.R. Mitchell is the construction CEO who recently pled guilty in federal court to conspiracy to pay more than a million dollars in bribes between 2010 and 2015 to an unidentified person to secure city contracts.

According to the lawsuit, Calvin Darden, a former UPS Executive and Atlanta Police Foundation Board member, sued ER Mitchell, ER Mitchell Construction, Mitzi Bickers and Chateau Land Company.

According to state records, two of the corporate officers of Chateau Land Company are Bickers and Sean Barnes, also known as Shandarrick Barnes.

Barnes is the man, according to police records, who confessed to throwing a cinder block through the front window of E.R. Mitchell’s home warning him to keep his mouth shut.

We showed the suit to William Perry, of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs.

“For many, many years we've had a lot of smoke covering these situations,” says Perry, “now we are starting to see fire.”

The suit alleges Darden loaned $345,795 to E.R. Mitchell for unnamed real estate and construction projects.  But, according to the suit, Mitchell wanted the money to flow through his "business partners" Mitzi Bickers and Chateau Land Company.

Darden ultimately sent all the money to either Bickers or her company.

“It sounds extremely odd,” says Perry. “It sounds like a cover up. It sounds like Ms. Bickers was a middle man.”

Darden's suit alleges fraud, claiming the defendants "intentionally misrepresented very important facts" to encourage the loans. And, that "none of the money" was ever paid back.

So, what does everyone say about this? Nothing. Neither the lawyers for the plaintiff nor the defendants would talk.

E.R. Mitchell answered the lawsuit by saying he had "no contract" with Darden and never "received any money."

Bicker's answer in the suit was the all the money paid to her and Sean Barnes’ company was on "behalf of Mitchell and Mitchell construction."

“This adds shade to an already shady situation,” says Perry.

The suit was settled in January of 2014. We don't know the outcome.