The former chief executive officer and general manager of the Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands was recently convicted on federal charges of masterminding kickbacks and of illegally billing his company for an addition to his own home.
Mario Clotinho Gomes was convicted on two counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by a jury in a federal court trial.
In addition to operating the inn, Old Edwards company had a development arm established to build town homes in Macon County, intended as affordable housing for employees. Gomes oversaw the creation of this employee village four miles from the inn. Thirty-five to forty-five houses were built in the village.
The indictment charging Gomes stated that from at least August 2005 through March 2008 Gomes and others involved in the development inflated invoices being billed to contractors and then shared in the illegal gains — all the while bilking Old Edwards for more than the work actually cost.
A company called Cornerstone Homes served as general contractor for work done by Old Edwards Inn and Spa. The man in charge, Greg Fuselier, was named in the indictment as a co-conspirator, as was George Mathis, chief engineer of Old Edwards Inn and Spa.
In addition to inflating invoices on the town homes, Gomes and Mathis had improvements made to their individual houses.
“Invoices for legitimate work were manipulated to include charges for work performed at Gomes’ and Mathis’ houses,” the indictment noted.
The two men traveled at least once from Macon County to Buncombe County to cash kickback checks from Cornerstone, the indictment states.
“Gomes and Mathis traveled … in order to avoid suspicion that might have been generated had they cashed Cornerstone’s checks in the small town of Highlands,” according to the indictment.
Gomes also would send approval for fraudulent payments from his office in Highlands to his co-conspirators’ homes in Duluth, Ga., according to the indictment.
He was convicted of wire fraud for transferring two payments, one on Jan. 14, 2008, for $182,398.02 and on Feb. 4, 2008, for $410,831.90.