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Mortgage fraud defendant pleads guilty
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 Herbert Patton Jr., 44, who was charged with one count of racketeering and nine counts of residential mortgage fraud, entered an "Alford" plea of guilty in Newton County Superior Court Tuesday and received a sentence of 10 years probation and $1,000 fine in exchange for testifying against his co-defendants, according to Newton County Chief Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon.

 Patton, one of the 10 people arrested for a 2006 mortgage fraud ring, had agreed to sell his Lake Lucinda Drive home at a price well above market value and then wired proceeds to another defendant, said Zon. Though he claimed he did not know what he was doing was illegal, prosecutors maintained he should have known it was fraud, according to the DA's office.

 In an "Alford" plea, the defendant maintains his innocence but recognizes a jury would find him guilty, explained Zon.

 The trial of Patton's other co-defendants is scheduled for the week of June 23.

Arsonist guilty

 Patricia Sanders pleaded guilty to arson and insurance fraud in Newton County Superior Court on May 15.

 Sanders and her husband Rodney Sanders were charged in 2001 with deliberately setting their home at 65 Bermuda Circle on fire to collect insurance money, according to the DA's office.

 Investigators discovered a large amount of accelerant had been used inside the home and that personal items had been removed before the fire, according to Chief Assistant District Attorney Layla Zon. The Sanders had also taken out a second mortgage on the home shortly before the fire, and Rodney Sanders had indicated to other people that they intended to burn the house, said Zon.

 The Sanders were released on bond and, despite a stipulation they were not to leave the state, the couple disappeared for several years. Investigators believed they had fled to Mexico.

 Patricia Sanders was re-arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border late fall of last year while crossing back into the States and extradited from Texas back to Newton County.

 She was sentenced to 30 years, with five to be served in prison, and $6,300 in fines. She was also ordered to pay for the costs of extradition and any future extradition costs should she leave the state during her probation.

Drug dealer crackdown

 Clarence Benton, Sr., who had been arrested February part of a crackdown on drug dealers by the Covington-Newton County Special Investigation Unit, pleaded guilty in Newton County Superior Court June 3 to violation of probation, one count of possession of cocaine and one count possession of marijuana.

 Benton was sentenced to 15 years, with five years in confinement, had five years of his probation revoked and ordered to testify truthfully against his co-defendants Curtis Green, Scott Benton Jr., Sedrick Bolden and Michael Wright. He was also ordered to stay away from the house where he was arrested, 5172 Avery Street.

 Scott Benton Jr. was also arrested in the same sweep and entered a guilty plea June 3 to possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana as well as violation of probation.

 He was sentenced to 15 years, with 2 years in confinement, and ordered to testify against his co-defendants as well.