Jerry Williams, who led Naples-based Orion Bank to oblivion in 2009 as Southwest Floridas real estate market collapsed, was sentenced today to six years in federal prison for three counts of bank fraud.
He has 60 days to turn himself in to a prison to be designated by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Although no fine will be imposed, hes required to pay restitution to his victims the exact amount hasnt been settled on and a separate hearing on that issue may be required, U.S. District Judge Charlene Honeywell said in her ruling.
Williams, 52, the bankss president, along with two other former Orion executives and a Tamarac businessman, was charged earlier this year in a 13-count indictment accusing them of scheming to illegally raise more funds while selling off bad loans to make the floundering bank appear financially healthier than it actually was.
At the sentencing hearing Williams attorneys said his actions, although wrong, were taken in a desperate attempt to save the bank from the financial chaos that ensued after the bottom fell out of Southwest Floridas real estate market in 2006.
Jerry tried to buy time for the bank in light of a crushing financial crash that was complicated by the burdensome demands of federal regulators for banks to stay better funded, attorney William Sullivan said in urging a lower sentence than the range of 135-168 months called for under federal sentencing guidelines.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Waid asked for the maximum allowable under the law: 15 years (consecutive five-year sentences for each count).
She said Williams acted selfishly in his own interests, not to help the other Orion employees and shareholders.
This fraud rose to the highest level of bank management and Williams was the biggest shareholder in the bank, she said. If Orion failed, Mr. Williams failed.
Honeywell said before issuing her sentence that she took both points of view into consideration.
The individual standing before the court has led an exemplary life with no criminal convictions, she said, but on the other hand, Mr. Williams conduct in this case was particularly egregious.
Honeywell rejected the defense argument that Williams was really acting out of desperation and panic to keep the bank from going under.
I think it was more about greed, basically, than about saving the bank, she said. Francesco "Frank" Mileto, Thomas Hebble of Naples, and Angel Guerzon of West Palm Beach) were separately charged as a result of their participation in the scheme. Mileto was sentenced to 5 ½ years in federal prison, Hebble was sentenced to 2 ½ years in federal prison, and Guerzon was sentenced to 2 years in federal prison.
Video: Ex-Orion Bank president arrives at courthouse for fraud sentencing