Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

William Garland

Other Federal Exonerations,%20William%20News%20B.jpeg
In August 1991, a federal grand jury in Columbus, Ohio indicted 63-year-old William “Bill” Garland, a prominent and successful Black businessman, on a single charge of fraud.

The indictment accused Garland of defrauding Raymond Pasco, a business partner, out of $75,000 in a deal to purchase 5,000 metric tons of cocoa beans from Ghana, Africa.

In December 1993, Garland went to trial in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The prosecution’s theory was that Garland had borrowed $75,000 from a business acquaintance, Raymond Pasco, to help finance the deal and promised the return of his money plus a $100,000 profit. However, no cocoa beans were ever purchased and, the prosecution contended, Pasco was defrauded out of his $100,000 profit.

In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Yontz told the jury that Garland converted $45,000 of Pasco's loan into West African CFA francs, the currency of Togo, and gave it to the cocoa sellers "specifically for gold purchases, transactions involving gold." Yontz said the CFA francs were wired to Togo, and “the same two individuals were given the money in Togo. Not Ghana, not cocoa; Togo for gold."

The prosecution presented evidence that Garland borrowed $75,000 from Pasco and that it wasn’t used to finance a cocoa beans deal. The prosecution said there were no documents, receipts, bank statements, or contract documents relating to a cocoa beans deal.

Garland testified that he normally bought and sold heavy machine tools and construction equipment. He said that he conducted business in several countries in West Africa and opened an office in Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast), where an associate, Henry Banchi, worked. Garland said that in July 1986, he and Banchi negotiated to purchase 5,000 tons of cocoa beans from a Ghanaian group that claimed to represent the Ghana Cocoa Board.

Garland said that he traveled to Ghana to meet the cocoa bean sellers, and that he and Banchi invested $400,000 to pay for processing, transporting, and loading the cocoa beans. A New York company, which had received a letter of credit from a Manhattan bank, had agreed to purchase the beans.

Garland said that he was out of funds when the cocoa sellers contacted him saying they needed another $50,000 immediately to pay for the loading of the beans onto the ship, which was ready to depart. Garland said he reached out to Pasco, who, on August 22, 1986, went to Garland’s house. During a meeting there, Pasco agreed to lend Garland $75,000 after Garland promised that he would be repaid plus a $100,000 profit on September 30, 1986.

Garland said he promised such a large profit because the Ghana Cocoa Board was so eager to open up markets in the U.S. that the 5,000 tons of beans were marked down significantly. Garland said even with the $100,000 to Pasco, he still expected to make a profit of $500,000. Garland sent a check for $45,000 to the Ghanaian sellers and sent the remaining $5,000 from his Abidjan office. He said he used the remaining funds from the original $75,000 to pay for his travel expenses for several trips to Africa. In addition, he traveled to the Netherlands to meet the ship.

However, Garland said that when the ship arrived, there were no beans aboard. By October 1986, when the beans still had not arrived, Garland filed a complaint against the sellers in Ghana. By the time Garland had been indicted, he had entered into a settlement agreement with Pasco. Pasco was repaid the $75,000, but never received the promised $100,000 profit.

The defense contended that Garland had been defrauded and had asked for a continuance to attempt to locate Tre Anatole, a business associate of Garland's based in Africa. Anatole had actually met with the Ghana sellers, Kwasi Tay and Seth Kwaku, and was present when the $45,000 was delivered to Tay and Kwaku. However, Anatole could not be found.

During closing argument, prosecutor Yontz told the jury that the cocoa bean deal was a sham to hide a gold transaction. “It wasn’t his money that was invested, it was Raymond Pasco’s $45,000,” Yontz said. “Not 75, not 200, and not 400. And maybe that deal fell through, but it certainly wasn’t bags of cocoa.”

“And when you take a look at all of this evidence and you use your common sense, there is no reasonable doubt about what Mr. Garland was up to with Raymond Pasco’s money, and it wasn’t loading cocoa,” Yontz said.

Just before Christmas, the jury convicted Garland of the one count of interstate fraud.

Five months later and prior to sentencing, the defense presented evidence at a hearing on a motion for a new trial. At the hearing, Anatole, who spoke only French, testified through an interpreter that he had been in Cameroon during the trial and was unable to be reached. He said that he had delivered the $45,000 to Tay and Kwaku. The motion for new trial was denied. The trial judge said the evidence was not “newly discovered” and he sentenced Garland to two years in prison.

Garland was allowed to remain free on bond during the appeal. His appellate team was headed by Ramsay Clark, a former U.S. Attorney General. On December 16, 1992, while the appeal was pending, the National Public Tribunal of Ghana issued a judgment convicting the two Ghanaians, Tay and Kwaku, of defrauding Garland of $200,000 by making false representations concerning the cocoa bean deal.

The judgment said that Tay and Kwaku created false documents and obtained “$400,000 which they said was to be paid in advance to the cocoa farmers and other persons for bagging and loading the cocoa.” A handwriting expert, according to the Tribunal’s judgment, concluded that documents—including a letter, a receipt, and a sworn statement—were written by Tay.

The Tribunal fined Tay and Kwaku each $125,000, of which $245,000 was to be paid to Garland. If they did not pay, they were to be sentenced to 10 years in prison.

When the case was argued in the U.S. Court of Appeals in January 1993, the defense asked the court to take judicial notice of the Tribunal’s decision. Although the prosecution did not oppose that motion, it argued that the facts found by the Tribunal were hearsay and that Garland’s conviction should be upheld.

On April 19, 1993, the Appeals Court reversed Garland’s conviction and ordered a new trial, though it strongly suggested that another trial would have a different outcome. The court said that Anatole’s testimony, “together with the judgment of the National Public Tribunal of Ghana convicting the Ghanaian sellers of fraud against Garland, would likely have resulted in an acquittal had they been presented to the jury.”

Anatole’s testimony “verifies Garland’s defense,” the court said. “It provides persuasive evidence that Garland believed he had a legitimate cocoa deal and thought he really could pay Pasco back when he said he would. If so, a reasonable jury would not find the intent necessary for fraud.”

The decision, authored by Chief Appeals Court Judge Gilbert S. Merritt Jr., criticized the prosecution, although the ruling did not address the defense claim that the prosecutor had violated Garland’s due process rights. “It is indeed unfortunate that the prosecution did not take the trouble to investigate the case in Ghana in order to determine the accuracy of the facts Garland presented,” Merritt wrote. “This case illustrates the reason the Department of Justice should thoroughly investigate its cases and not simply assume that the accused is not telling the truth when his story is difficult to verify immediately.”

The prosecution then dismissed the charge.

The damage to Garland had been done. Later that year, on December 8, 1993, he filed a petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking protection from his creditors. That same day, however, Garland filed complaints against the prosecutor, Randall Yontz, and the FBI agent who investigated the case, Steven Glaser.

The letter, sent to FBI Director Louis Freeh, claimed that Glaser “initiated a malicious personal attack on me nearly three years ago designed to break me mentally, financially and socially.”

Garland’s letter said that “Glaser and Yontz convinced Raymond E. Pasco, a local businessman, that Garland had defrauded him.” Then, the letter said, Yontz failed to present evidence to the grand jury that showed that Garland had been the victim of a fraud, not the perpetrator of a fraud.

At the time, Garland said, “They cooked up that gold story because they needed a motive. Without that, you just had Bill Garland borrowing money from Ray Pasco and then paying him back: no harm, no foul.”

“The FBI and the U.S. Attorney invented the crime, recruited the victim and concocted a motive to make it all seem plausible,” Garland declared.

The complaint, however, went nowhere. On July 19, 1996, Garland died. He was 68.

– Maurice Possley

Report an error or add more information about this case.

Posting Date: 4/8/2021
Last Updated: 4/8/2021
Most Serious Crime:Fraud
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1986
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:58
Contributing Factors:Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No