Anthony Knotts, who owns the newly-opened Seafood Destiny restaurant on Franklin Street, is being charged for allegedly writing and distributing false checks, in addition to charges related to an estimated $101,000 in debt.
He appeared in court on March 14 to discuss the accumulated debt and provide reasoning for missing court dates over the course of four months. He spent 12 days in Guilford County Detention Center in relation to these charges and was released after the hearing last week.
Court hearings for the debt are separate from charges related to the alleged false checks, which total nearly $28,000, according to WFMY-TV, a CBS-affiliated television station in Greensboro. The charges will be addressed during a later court date.
Knotts owns two Seafood Destiny locations, one in Chapel Hill and the other in Greensboro. The Franklin Street location opened its doors on Dec. 28. He also serves as a senior pastor of The Embassy Church in Greensboro.
The initial case focuses on debt that Ed Cobbler and his wife Pat — plaintiffs in the case who know him through the church — said accumulated over the course of a decade. Pat said the couple has known Knotts for several years and were close friends.
“I was devastated by the whole situation,” Pat said. “We’ve never tried to handle this any other way but very civilly.”
Knotts owed an initial total sum of $73,068 to Ed and Pat Cobbler, according to court documents from late August. A court issued an order for him to pay initial fees in 2014. Years of accumulated interest raised the debt owed to an estimated $101,000, Ed said.
He was initially scheduled to appear in court to examine the debt on Dec. 13, and he did not show up. He failed to appear for another two rescheduled dates on Jan. 3 and Feb. 14, respectively, according to court documents.
During the February hearing, Knotts was called to provide reasoning as to why he did not appear in court for the first two occasions.
After failing to appear for the third court date, the Guilford County Court issued a warrant for Knotts’ arrest on Feb. 22 on two counts of civil and criminal contempt. Criminal contempt refers to Knotts' failure to show up to court, while civil contempt is related to not abiding by the court's orders.
Knotts said he failed to attend the three hearings out of fear of not having legal representation.
“I never thought that I would need a civil attorney,” he said. “Most of the time you only think about traffic attorneys.”
He said he found out about the faulty checks on Feb. 28 and turned himself in to the Guilford County Sheriff's Office, where he was arrested. It was here that he was also put in jail for the criminal and civil contempt charges related to the accumulated debt.
He was then released that same day on a $100,004 bond for criminal contempt, according to the documents.
But, the following day, the judge found his release to be improper and issued another warrant for his arrest.
"While this security may have satisfied the conditions of release for defendant's criminal contempt, it did not satisfy his conditions of release for his civil contempt nor purge defendant of his civil contempt," according to a court order dated March 1.
Knotts said nine police officers arrested him at the Seafood Destiny location in Greensboro on March 1. He didn’t understand why so many officers were involved.
“Four sheriffs came in the front and at least five in the back — even the head sheriff — for little old me,” he said.
His case was heard by N.C. Superior Court Judge John O. Craig III.
Ed and Pat Cobbler said Knotts built up the debt through several means, such as credit card loans, a private business investment, renting out housing and renovations to The Embassy Church.
“I trusted him, explicitly,” Ed said. “And he took advantage of that trust.”
Ed said that he tried many times to convince Knotts to repay the debt.
“One time I went to his house and said ‘Anthony, I forgive you from my heart, but I cannot forgive the debt’,” he said.
Knotts said that though he can’t elaborate on the faulty checks for legal purposes, he is committed to owning up to his errors in regards to the checks and the missed court dates.
“I wanted to stay away from (the situation),” he said. "I’m not a confrontational person and I thought it would go away, but it hasn’t. It’s out, I’ve gotta deal with it, it’s gotta be handled and I own that."
Lynn E. Coleman, part of Knotts’ legal representation, declined to comment.
Due to his name and mugshot being everywhere, Knotts said he wants to find a way to move forward. He coaches entrepreneurs and said he wants to use his experience to educate others.
“All things happen for a reason,” Knotts said. “I just choose to be optimistic and see what kind of good I can work out of this.”
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