President of Florida-Based Financial Firm Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Role in $179 Million Sham Loan Scheme
CHICAGO — A federal judge in Chicago today sentenced the former president of a Florida-based financial firm to ten years in prison for his role in a $179 million sham loan scheme.
TIMOTHY G. FISHER was the president and chief operating officer of First Farmers Financial LLC when the company sold 26 non-existent loans to a Milwaukee investment firm for $179 million. The company submitted documents to the Milwaukee investment firm that falsely created the appearance that the loans were issued to borrowers in Florida and Georgia and had been guaranteed, in part, by the federal government. In fact, the sham loans, which purportedly had principal amounts ranging from $2.5 to $10 million, did not exist. The Milwaukee firm, which purchased the loans as an investment vehicle for its clients, including community banks, retirement plans, municipalities, and subdivisions in Illinois and elsewhere, suffered a loss of $179 million.
First Farmers’ former chief executive officer, NIKESH A. PATEL, of Windermere, Fla., was also charged in connection with the fraud. Patel pleaded guilty to five counts of wire fraud and was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison.
U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras today imposed Fisher’s ten-year sentence after a hearing in federal court in Chicago. Fisher, 41, of Pasadena, Calif., previously pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.
The sentencings were announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Jeffrey A. Monhart, Regional Director of the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Employee Benefits Security Administration.
“The defendant’s dishonesty was not a single lapse of judgment, but rather, involved years of significant deceit,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. King, Jr., argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “His scheme, born of greed, won him millions and was devastating to the investors who were unwitting victims.”
“Fraudulent transactions like these cause harm to companies, the financial industry, and the individuals whose hard-earned money is invested as a means of planning for their future,” said Director Monhart. “These crimes undermine legitimate companies and compromise the financial integrity of benefit plans.”
Fisher admitted in a plea agreement that he created fictitious financial statements that were sent to the Milwaukee company. After receiving money from the Milwaukee firm, Fisher unlawfully engaged in monetary transactions with a portion of the fraudulently obtained funds, including a wire transfer of $450,000 of scheme proceeds. Fisher caused these proceeds to be transferred from First Farmers’ account in Florida to his personal bank account in California. He then transferred these funds to a bank account belonging to a business in Nevada in connection with an investment in that business.
Patel submitted false statements to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to obtain certification in a USDA program that guarantees a percentage of loans issued to borrowers who improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities. First Farmers, which had offices in Florida, Georgia and California, obtained USDA certification after Patel submitted the false statements about the company’s assets and officers.