NORTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga - The former managing partner of a large Atlanta real estate firm faces a lawsuit that claims he stole millions of dollars from the firm.
The lawsuit, obtained from a source by Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik, was filed Monday at Fulton County Superior court, and alleges that Nat Hardwick, a partner in Morris, Hardwick and Schneider, had taken at least $30 million from firm accounts and from escrow accounts belonging to Landcastle Title.
The lawsuit alleged that Hardwick took "approximately a $1,000,000 to pay providers of private jet services,” and made “$4,000,000 in wire transfers to casinos."
The lawsuit also alleges that Hardwick covered up his actions until they were discovered by auditors.
In a memo sent to customers Monday, also obtained by Petchenik through a source, firm officials confirmed that Hardwick had resigned his position.
“These activities have negatively affected the future of our company and our customers,” the memo said. “However, Fidelity National Title Group, one of our long-standing and trusted partners, has agreed to step in as 70 percent owner of Landcastle Title.”
The memo said FNTG was funding any shortages to accounts and that they were moving forward with “business as usual.”
An attorney representing Morris, Hardwick and Schneider in the lawsuit told Petchenik they could not comment because it was pending litigation.
Hardwick’s attorney, Ed Garland, sent Petchenik a statement about the allegations:
“A civil lawsuit has been filed against Nat Harwick. Nat is not guilty of any improper, illegal or unethical conduct. Nat became aware of a problem with the accounting earlier this summer and immediately alerted his partners and initiated a review by outside auditors.
“Nat is a founder of the firm Morris Hardwick Schneider and has nurtured its growth for over 23 years. Under Nat’s leadership, the firm grew to 52 offices in thirteen states with eight hundred employees conducting thirty-six thousand yearly transactions involving billions of dollars.
“Anybody who knows Nat knows that he loves the law firm, its employees, the attorneys and the firm’s many loyal clients. He would never knowingly or intentionally take money he was not entitled to or harm the firm or its clients in any way. The firm was profitable, and Nat believed that all of the money he received was properly distributed to him as his share of the profits of the firm.
“The claims made against Nat in this suit are false, and Nat looks forward to clearing his name.”
Garland told Petchenik he was not aware of any law enforcement involvement in investigating the allegations.
Roswell realtor Creed Crutchfield, who has dealt with the firm, told Petchenik allegations such as this makes consumers nervous.
“It just affects everybody in the industry and it makes my job just that much harder,” he said.
Crutchfield said that realty firms are being warned to double-check any closings they had with the firm to ensure everything was handled properly.
“Those real estate agents might want to make sure they check with the companies they closed with to make sure everything is fine for their clients,” he said.