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Press Release

Tulsa Man Sentenced for Defrauding Bank of Nearly $5 Million

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Oklahoma

United States Attorney Trent Shores announced today that a Tulsa man was ordered to federal prison for defrauding a bank of nearly $5 million and for bankruptcy fraud. In December, Zealand Benjamin Thigpen III, 68, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to defrauding Arvest Bank of $4,754,488 from 2015 to 2017.

U.S. District Judge Claire V. Eagan sentenced Thigpen to 33 months in prison to be followed by five years of supervised release. Judge Eagan further ordered a criminal forfeiture money judgement in the sum of $4,754,488.40 representing proceeds obtained through his crimes.

“Thigpen swindled millions. He perpetrated a fraud on both Arvest Bank and the Small Business Administration. While he sits in federal prison for the next 33 months, the United States Attorney’s Office will return his illegally begotten proceeds to the victims of his fraud,” said U.S. Attorney Shores. “I commend the investigators from the Department of Treasury and Small Business Administration, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Leitch. They discovered and exposed Thigpen’s scheme, then brought him to justice.”

As part of his scheme, Thigpen owned and operated Julimar Trading, LLC., which bought and sold refined metal alloys, principally for the production of steel. Julimar’s operations were funded by Avrest Bank and, in part, guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. The bank financing was secured by his company’s inventory and accounts receivable, as well as Thigpen’s personal guarantees. When submitting financial documentation to the bank on October 4, 2016, Thigpen provided false information about the value of Julimar’s inventory and accounts receivable, explaining the inventory was worth $5,816,335. As a result, Arvest and Small Business Administration continued his line of credit under false pretenses. In fact, the accounts receivable and inventory were nearly non-existent.

Later, on November 18, 2016, Thigpen filed pursuant to Chapter 7 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, and once again lied about Julimar’s inventory, stating that it was worth just over $3.3 million, when he was fully aware it only totaled only a few thousand dollars.

Thigpen was remanded int0 the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service until transfer into a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility.

This case resulted from a joint investigation performed by the Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin C. Leitch


Public Affairs

Updated June 21, 2019

Financial Fraud