Orion ex-CEO Jerry Williams sentenced to 6 years in bank fraud case

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— A local banker’s fall from grace has landed him in prison.

Once a revered banker, Jerry Williams, the ex-CEO of Orion Bank in Naples, will go to prison for six years and will pay restitution to his victims.

The sentencing caps off a years-long saga that put three of his co-conspirators behind bars in October for their involvement in a bank fraud conspiracy that prosecutors said helped bring down the once-admired community bank.

Williams, 52, learned his fate Tuesday at a sentencing hearing that lasted four hours in federal court in Fort Myers. His attorneys fought for a lighter sentence, arguing his crimes were mistakes he made in a panic only to save his bank.

U.S. District Judge Charlene E. Honeywell saw it another way.

“I think it was more about greed, really, than it was about saving the bank,” she said before announcing the sentence. “It was really about saving Jerry Williams.”

She considered the fact that he had no prior record and cited the letters of support she received for Williams, including a few from his former employees.

Orion employees and other shareholders lost millions when the bank failed and their stock became worthless. Many hoped for a stiffer sentence.

“Six years is better than nothing,” said Patrick Miller, a former senior vice president for Orion. “I think it’s far less than he deserves.”

Bill Bartels, Orion’s former director of human resources who worked at the bank for 12 years, agreed.

“I wanted more,” he said. “I think a lot of us wanted more. I lost my retirement.”

He estimated his losses alone at more than $700,000.

Under a plea agreement, Williams faced a sentence of up to 15 years on three counts involving bank fraud.

Prosecutors told the judge not to go easy on him, arguing he was the most responsible for the conspiracy as the head of the bank who called the shots. He was the president, CEO and chairman of Orion and its holding company, Orion Bancorp Inc.

Williams admitted to orchestrating a complex scheme that involved illegally raising more capital for Orion and selling off bad loans to a borrower to make his failing bank appear in better financial shape than it was to regulators. In the scheme, more than $80 million in loans were made to a borrower, Francesco Mileto, who was over his loan limit, with $15 million returned to the bank for the illegal purchase of stock.

Williams apologized in court.

“Your honor, I take full responsibility for my actions and the mistakes I’ve made,” he said sternly, facing the judge. “I’m deeply saddened. I deeply regret my conduct and I appreciate any consideration that I receive from you today.”

Employees and other shareholders in the courtroom were disappointed that he didn’t turn to them to apologize.

Nicole Waid, the assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the case, described the scheme as a last-minute attempt by Williams to save his own finances, as the bank’s largest shareholder and the one who stood to lose the most if Orion failed.

“This was fraud at the highest level,” she said.

Williams, she said, used Orion as his own piggy bank. Even as the bank was failing, Williams was selling off his personal stock for his personal gain, Waid said.

The hearing drew more than 50 to the courtroom, including many longtime employees who became a close-knit family working at Orion.

Miller was the only former employee and shareholder to speak in court. He pleaded for the maximum sentence, saying Williams’ “despicable behavior and his arrogant demeanor continues.”

“Williams is a prime example of company executives who reap excess profits at the expense of others,” he said. “His quest to become powerful in the world of banking was overshadowed by his increased selfishness and greed. He lost his moral compass.”

He and others were happy to hear the judge say “greed” during the sentencing.

“Greed was his driver the whole time,” said Sandy Forsyth, a former vice president of deposit operations for Orion.

She lost more than $1 million in stock when the bank failed, she said, after being with the bank for 26 years.

Yvette Saco, who was a senior retail administrator for Orion, said she hopes Williams’ time in prison will make him a better person.

“I knew he wouldn’t get 15 years because it was his first offense,” she said. “I was hoping for at least 10. I was expecting five. So I’m OK with it.”

William Sullivan, one of Williams’ attorneys from Washington, D.C., declined to comment immediately after the hearing. Later, he sent out a statement, saying Williams was disappointed with the judge’s decision. Williams’ three co-conspirators received sentences ranging from two years to five years and five months.

“He did not profit one dollar from his actions, and in fact lost everything when Orion failed,” Sullivan said. “If anything, his greatest failure was that he fought too hard to keep the bank afloat.”

Williams has 14 days to appeal. The amount he will pay to his victims isn’t yet determined. For now, Williams has agreed to partially pay back four shareholders who bought his personal stock as the bank faltered. They include one of his closest friends at the time, pro football coach Dave Wannstedt, and Walter Krumm, a Naples investor who purchased $10 million of stock.

Williams’ sentence includes 50 hours of community service and supervised release for three years after he gets out of prison. He must turn himself in within 60 days to start serving his time.

Posted earlier

Jerry Williams, the ex-CEO of Orion Bank in Naples, will go to prison for six years.

A federal judge handed down the sentence late this afternoon in a Fort Myers courtroom.

Under a plea agreement, Williams faced a sentence of up to 15 years on three counts involving bank fraud. He asked for leniency, but prosecutors told the judge not to go too easy on him, arguing he was the most responsible for the conspiracy that landed three of his co-conspirators in prison late last year.

Originally, Williams faced the possibility of life in prison. A 13-count indictment carried a maximum sentence of 220 years.

Williams signed a plea deal in December. Each count he’s pleaded guilty to carried a sentence of up to five years.

The prosecution argued Williams directed the bank fraud scheme and blamed him for the failure of his once highly successful community bank.

Williams unsuccessfully fought to keep the bank’s former shareholders, employees and other witnesses from testifying against him at the hearing, which started at 1 p.m. on Tuesday in federal court in Fort Myers.

His high-powered attorneys argued he shouldn’t be judged only by his wrongful actions, but “in the larger context of his life.” They portrayed him as a family man, a caring employer, a devoted business leader and philanthropist — and generally as a good man who made “one mistake under relentless pressure.” Many of his victims saw him a different way.

Hundreds of shareholders, many of the bank employees, lost millions when the bank failed in November 2009.

Williams admitted to orchestrating a complex scheme that involved illegally raising more capital for Orion and selling off bad loans to a borrower to make the failing bank appear in better financial shape than it was to its regulators.

Return to naplesnews.com later today for more on this developing story

© 2012 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 36

swfl_ff writes:

"a caring employer, a devoted business leader and philanthropist — and generally as a good man who made one mistake under relentless pressure"

Give me a break. This guy cost many people including his employees their life savings and pensions.

This guy should never be allowed to see the light of day again, but as usual white collar criminals are treated lightly. Six years is not nearly long enough for this clown.

voltihs writes:

"high powered attorneys" paid for with money stolen from innocent people get this crook a token sentence. Where's the justice?

cnc1128 writes:

NDN reporter Laura Layden writes the story, but the sentencing federal judge remains nameless. Oh, I know what happened....Ms. Layden fell asleep just when they announced the judge's name. BTW the judge is an azzhole. Willaims faced life, then 220 years, then plea bargained on 13 counts down to 6 years. Only in America!!!! How did that happen? 6 years after employees lost millions. WOW! Just goes to show you, when you work for a greedly slob like Williams, "there ain't no free lunch".

floridacarpenter writes:

in response to voltihs:

"high powered attorneys" paid for with money stolen from innocent people get this crook a token sentence. Where's the justice?

There is no justice anymore in this country. You see it every day in cases like this..As you said, his defense has been paid for with money stolen from lots of innocent people. and he gets a sentence that is nothing. It sickens me to see these things

Trexler writes:

'highly successful community bank'..there have been alot of them, stealing the money from the employees and taxpayers to the tune of several hundred million dollars...yep, highly successful community bank...

LostItAll writes:

The sentence of 6 years is a joke and a slap in the face for everyone who lost money because of this jackwagon, pompous butthead. Try starting to save for your retirement at the age of 51, not to mention the people who spent 15 to 20 years working for this meathead. The justice system in this country is flawed beyond belief. Jerry, hope you enjoy prison, don't bend over to pick up any wooden nickels while your in there. Better yet go ahead. UNREAL !!!!

RoadKing writes:

in response to cnc1128:

NDN reporter Laura Layden writes the story, but the sentencing federal judge remains nameless. Oh, I know what happened....Ms. Layden fell asleep just when they announced the judge's name. BTW the judge is an azzhole. Willaims faced life, then 220 years, then plea bargained on 13 counts down to 6 years. Only in America!!!! How did that happen? 6 years after employees lost millions. WOW! Just goes to show you, when you work for a greedly slob like Williams, "there ain't no free lunch".

U.S. District Judge Charlene Honeywell
http://www.news-press.com/article/201...

garyOfTheGulf writes:

The "Good Ole Boys Club" was alive and well in Federal Court!! The person in the Black robe DID NOT due there job AGAIN!!

Bramble writes:

Six years does seem to be mild. But he will be a convicted felon when released. Try and get a job with that on your record.

mkc writes:

6 "F in" Years... The guy can Lie, and steal Millions of Dollars from hard working people,whipping out peoples entire Life Savings and get 6 Years... Why? Not one person in the public from Naples to Michigan, thinks this is the correct Justice.

The man is not a good person or a devoted business leader and philanthropist, He is a Stealing, Robbing, lying con-man and you call him a good man.

What is wrong with our Judges and Court systems, and jurors?

Put this Man away for a minimum of 15 years!

Then these types of Crimes will not happen as often. 6 years, he has money hidden, other peoples money! Will come out laughing at all of you Fools and then go on to live a nice comfortable Life.

s----- Americans...Shame on you...

baldygrandpa writes:

How much will it cost to incarcerate this guy for 6 years.? Will he learn a lesson from the said incarceration.? Will it deter others from committing the same sort of crime? My guess would be that his employment prospects are shot.
I doubt it.

The only thing these folks understand is MONEY.

Maybe his family and friends can buy a time reduction if all injured parties are made whole. That, to me, would be better solution.

manforpeace writes:

Laura Layden gives victims a half of a sentence. You are a piece of work Ms Layden.
You should be fired! Your propaganda is sickning, but the silver lining is other people are finally seeing you for who you are.

Jarvis (Inactive) writes:

White collar crime pays. Millions of dollars stolen. Six year prison sentence. How many millions does he have in an offshore bank account? His pension plan includes a nice home in Europe, away from all the people he robbed.

CarpeVeritas writes:

We elect as Governor, not someone who stole from individuals, but from the Federal Government.

Why is anyone surprised at this short sentence?

manforpeace writes:

http://www.news-press.com/article/201...
Don't think this reporter is friends with Jerry's wife.

jeffz3711 writes:

No wonder people question our legal system. A kid goes to jail for smoking a joint or stealing some food for five years and this guy get six in a country club prison I am sure. People that steal from their friends and employees are not good people and do not deserve special consideration. At least one ofthe wall street crooks is getting some jail time. The really big ones have not spent a day in jail yet.

gladesman writes:

A more appropriate sentence for bankers who defraud their customers and others would be a death sentence with no possibility of parole after sentence is handed out to these scoundrels.

gladesman writes:

in response to Jarvis:

White collar crime pays. Millions of dollars stolen. Six year prison sentence. How many millions does he have in an offshore bank account? His pension plan includes a nice home in Europe, away from all the people he robbed.

Maybe the system could work both ways. Example - The day this guy walks out of jail one of the folks he ripped off pops a cap on him so his peers get a message. Then that person pleads delayed insanity and finds an accommodating judge to give him 60 days.

staghorn writes:

never trust a republican©

prelude9925 writes:

in response to gladesman:

Maybe the system could work both ways. Example - The day this guy walks out of jail one of the folks he ripped off pops a cap on him so his peers get a message. Then that person pleads delayed insanity and finds an accommodating judge to give him 60 days.

What if, in 6 years, someone whom this bi polar, narcissist cost an entire life savings worth just happens to be waiting? Maybe there will be many of them? Point being, when you have valid offers to sell and your profit would have been upwards of $50 million alone, greed is the ONLY motivator. The judge knows this, we know this, those who knew this man know this was no leader. This was no decent, upstanding citizen, "who just tried too hard to save the bank".

This is a person who makes calculated decisions to not give two shats about you, your family, or anything else. If you cannot serve a purpose to him, or say no to him, you are not needed. He LIED, repeatedly to EVERYONE! He withdrew money from his 401k, and did not allow ANY other employee to do the same. He blatantly encouraged employee purchase of stock, when he should have been impartial. He told everyone how they'd make X amount, as he turned down the offers. He distanced those who said no, and surrounded himself with apparently greedy Board members who very much liked to say yes, even if they didn't want to. This was a bull in china shop, or rather a theif in a vault. Running rampant. Houses, cars, etc. Leaves the FDIC in the hook for hundreds of millions.

Now, that's quite a first offense in my opinion. And there is much more to it. 6 years is all this is worth? Why was there any plea deal in the first place? Ultimately, he will pay in one way or another...for, you reap what you sew Mr. Williams.

angrytxpyr writes:

Well at least he can't run for Governor!!! But I have no doubt Rick Scot would hire the guy in a heart beat if for no other reason than birds of a feather flock together.

VivaLaBeachStore writes:

Crook. Dave Wandstadt's partner. The Scummy underbelly of PonziTown.

LostItAll writes:

After reading more from Jerry's attorney and how they painted him as this family man, genius etc.. It's ironic that during the 10 years I worked there Jerry thumped his chest claiming he was the key to the success of the bank. When it all crumbled around him he doesn't want to take any of the blame. It's everyone else's failures not his. You will have 6 years Jerry to think about your past, I wish it was 10 years. Remember this Jackpot Jerry, all the faces in the court room you screwed, all the children these people are raising,all the retirement money they lost. Those are the real victims, not you, not the FDIC, the real people who busted their humps to make YOUR bank a sucess. You let them down, they trusted in you, you sold us all a bill of goods, convincing us we would be rich because of you. It's appauling you asked for community service, jail is the best place for crooks, thiefs and liars like you. Rot in HELL !!!!

LostItAll writes:

Oh and one more thing, Carla Pollard and Stacy Byers, we all read your letters in Jerry's defense. Are you kiddig me, really? He treated employees like crap, he treated both of you the same way. He paid people well? Gave them cars? Really? That is easy for you to say Stacy while you drove around in a Jaguar with a nearly $800 lease payment, Carla in her little Mercedes Sports car. Funny how we all turned on Jerry, Carla? You knew what was going on and turned the other way. Left the company to keep your nose clean. Both of you can kiss my butt, people like you who support crooks should be joining him in prison.

tacoma4909 writes:

in response to Huuuuuge:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Such an original name! Doyou sell cars for a living? If you had worked closely with Pat you would be more informed! Aslo nice of you to take a shot at his wife to bad you hide behind a handle

legrandfromage writes:

Jerry gets 6 years in Club Fed plus some community service after, what a deal. Carol Peabody (NDN March 23) got 8 years and 22 years probation for stealing $250,000 from her employer. Kenneth Elliott (NDN March 23) got 11 years and 15 years probation for bilking customers of $70,000. The message is clear: Steal big, and steal it from the Feds.

justme writes:

Aw, isn't that sad. A bunch of rich people losing lots of money. Sigh.

wolfgang1 writes:

I could have walked into one of Jerry's branches, pullled a gun on a teller, and gotten at least twice the sentence he did for stealing tens of millions and destroying hundreds of people's lives.
Does anyone think he will pay a dime of restitution? Only to himself! Once he gets released from Club Fed ( 18 months out of a six year sentence) he can go visit the 10 million he has stashed in the Cayman's. This will work out great for him, since he'll get to use both the chip shot and back swing he perfected while in "prison".
I would trade my stressed out, honest, hard working, never able to get ahead middle class lifestyle for his deal. What's a scant 18 months of making license plates in trade for a lifetime of leisure?
Justice for no one, except the wealthy and well connected!

lovinaples writes:

in response to tacoma4909:

Such an original name! Doyou sell cars for a living? If you had worked closely with Pat you would be more informed! Aslo nice of you to take a shot at his wife to bad you hide behind a handle

I aree with "Huuuuuge". My personal experience with Pat showed him to be every bit as pompous Jerry. Karma is a "b" Pat.

tacoma4909 writes:

in response to lovinaples:

I aree with "Huuuuuge". My personal experience with Pat showed him to be every bit as pompous Jerry. Karma is a "b" Pat.

Guess he must have turned you down for a loan

legrandfromage writes:

How come nobody here is standing up for Jerry? Wouldn't you love to know how his family is ekeing out a living in Texas, like Kwame Kilpatrick, the defrocked mayor of Detroit, paying back the D $1M in disppearing funds and still under federal indictment for various fraudulent stuff.

garnet1995 writes:

No wonder he was smiling throughout the day had millions invested somewhere and only had 6 yrs to invest of his time...What a joke No justise at all. you can steal a loaf bread and get that sentence

beerbong writes:

Williams apologized in court.

That makes it all better. He won't get the hard time he deserves. He will probably be in a white collar joint. You know tea after tennis.

staghorn writes:

just another one of them hard working, family values, high morals, bible thumping, constitution following, obama is a kenyan, pro-life, pro-death penalty, friends of connie mack, mitt 2012, let's get to work, ‘party of no’ republicans.

just can't trust them.

SayNOtoBARRYO writes:

in response to staghorn:

just another one of them hard working, family values, high morals, bible thumping, constitution following, obama is a kenyan, pro-life, pro-death penalty, friends of connie mack, mitt 2012, let's get to work, ‘party of no’ republicans.

just can't trust them.

Yep...It's all Bush's fault....Bernie Madoff, John Corzine....

Oh wait...Madoff and Corzine are Democrats...lol. They stole more in a minute than the Orion clown ever could have.

The point is Williams is a crook, Corzine is a crook, Bernie Madoff is a crook.....Greedy SOBs come in all races,creeds, religions, gender, sexual orientation and even political parties.

raspberryberet writes:

As long as people continue to be rewarded for bad behavior, our country is never going to get back on the right track.

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