Bellaire man ordered to pay $9.5 million in restitution
HOUSTON – A 61-year-old purported “investment advisor” has been ordered to serve the maximum sentence for his conviction of wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
William Andrew Hightower pleaded guilty Oct. 19, 2019.
Today, U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ordered him to serve 188 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by three years of supervised release. At the hearing, the court heard from some of the victims who described how he stole retirement funds and their life savings. Judge Miller further ordered Hightower to pay a total of $9.5 million to the people victimized by his scheme.
Hightower was president of Hightower Capital Group (HCG) which he founded in 2010 and held himself out to be an investment advisor. However, he concealed the fact that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) had barred him from acting as a broker or associating with a broker-deal firm in October 2015.
Hightower conducted a Ponzi scheme – taking money from clients from 2013-2018 and making false promises regarding their investments. He falsely told them their money was being invested in various projects, such as restaurants, movies, insurance contracts and more.
Hightower met most of his investors through referrals from other investors, family and friends. He lulled clients with misleading portfolios by presenting investment programs with purported high returns in a short period of time.
On some occasions, Hightower would make monthly payments to investors. They falsely believed their money was being properly invested. Some even re-invested additional funds with Hightower.
Hightower fraudulently used investor monies to pay back other investors, pay his credit cards, fund his company and/or to enrich his own lifestyle.
Previously released on bond, he was ordered into custody after the hearing today where he will remain pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady prosecuted the case.