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Fishing guide arrested following multiple fraud charges
Shane Watson mug
Shane Watson

A local fishing guide accused of fraudulent investment deals has been arrested by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

Bradley Shane Watson, 50, owner of Shane Watson Guide Service, was taken into custody Wednesday evening after he surrendered himself on four county arrest warrants. He has been charged with three counts of felony theft by deception and one count of account fraud, according to Cpl. Doug Rainwater, spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the now-disconnected website, Lakelanierstripers.com, Watson is described as “a 3rd generation Lake Lanier fisherman” that runs “Lake Lanier’s ‘Only’ Full-Time Fishing Fleet.’”

Prior to his arrest, the Forsyth County News, a sister publication of the Dawson County News, reported that Watson had been implicated in a number of theft by deception and fraud cases in Gainesville, Forsyth, Banks and Monroe counties; and Aiken County, S.C. Incident reports indicated a pattern of fraudulent dealings in which Watson allegedly took thousands of dollars from victims under the guise of legitimate investments.

Forsyth County court records also showed Watson had been the subject of three civil lawsuits involving unpaid investments.

Since the Forsyth County News’ previous report, additional incidents involving Watson have been reported to authorities in the cities of Milton and Roswell and Walton County. Two additional civil lawsuits have been filed against Watson, his business and his wife, Pamela J. Watson.

In total, 15 possible victims have come forward to authorities.

Rainwater said the Sheriff’s Office has confirmed charges for two alleged victims within the county, and detectives are investigating other reports.

One report filed on May 11, 2018, states that a victim allegedly gave Watson $9,000 in April 2017 as a down payment on a new Carolina Skiff boat, due to be delivered the following winter. The report states that Watson did not fulfill the boat contract. In April 2018, the victim received a refund check from Watson, which when deposited was returned for insufficient funds.

“Mr. Watson now tells him that he doesn’t have the money and is trying to come up with the money,” the report stated.

Another report filed on May 18, 2018, states that between August and December of 2017, Watson allegedly secured loans of $55,000 from a victim and promised a return of almost 50 percent by March 2018. The report states that in April 2018 the victim received two checks for his investments, but when deposited both were returned for insufficient funds.

According to victim statements to numerous law enforcement agencies, Watson allegedly secured money from victims by taking down payments for boats and by soliciting large-return loans ranging in amount from $25,000 to $180,000.

Like the two Forsyth County incidents for which Watson is charged, victims in each of the other jurisdictions state they either never received a boat they had paid for, or when they received returns off of investments made with Watson, their checks were returned for insufficient funds.

Numerous previous attempts to contact Watson for comment and to determine if Watson has legal representation have been unsuccessful.

Watson was booked into the Forsyth County Jail under a bond of $34,560. Rainwater said when Watson is released on bond, he will be arrested on outstanding warrants in Aiken, S.C.