Mark A. Conner, 44, formerly of Canton, Georgia, and Clayton A. Coe, 44, McDonough, Georgia, two former top officers of FirstCity Bank, Stockbridge, Georgia, have been charged in a recently unsealed indictment for a variety of offenses including conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud in connection with misconduct at FirstCity Bank in the years before the bank’s seizure by state and federal authorities on March 20, 2009. In addition to the conspiracy and bank fraud charges, the indictment charges Conner with conducting a continuing financial crimes enterprise at the bank between February 2006 and February 2008, during which Conner‘s and his co-conspirators’ crimes allegedly generated over $5 million in unlawful gross proceeds.
A federal grand jury in Atlanta returned the sealed indictment against Conner and Coe on March 16, 2011. Conner was arrested on the charges and taken into custody by federal agents at Miami International Airport, the two-year anniversary of FirstCity Bank‘s failure, upon his arrival in Miami from the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies. Conner made his initial appearance today before a federal magistrate judge in Miami, who preliminarily ordered Conner to be detained as a flight risk pending his transfer by Deputy U.S. Marshals from Miami to Atlanta for trial. A formal detention hearing will take place in Miami on Thursday, March 24, 2011, at 1:30 p.m. Coe‘s initial appearance on the indictment in the Northern District of Georgia has not yet been scheduled.
According to the charges and other information presented in court: Conner served in a variety of top positions at FirstCity Bank between 2004 and 2009, including as Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, as a member of the bank’s loan committee, as President, and later as acting Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. Coe served as a Vice President and as FirstCity Bank‘s Senior Commercial Loan Officer. While serving in these positions, Conner, Coe, and their co-conspirators allegedly conspired to defraud FirstCity Bank‘s loan committee and Board of Directors into approving multiple multi-million dollar commercial loans to borrowers who, unbeknownst to FirstCity Bank, were actually purchasing property owned by Conner or Coe personally.
The indictment charges that Conner, Coe, and their co-conspirators misrepresented the essential nature, terms, and underlying purpose of the loans and falsified documents and information presented to the loan committee and the Board of Directors. Conner, Coe, and their co-conspirators then allegedly caused at least 10 other federally-insured banks to invest in, or “participate in” the fraudulent loans based on these and other fraudulent misrepresentations, shifting all or part of the risk of default to the other banks. Coe‘s bonus compensation was tied to the origination of FirstCity Bank loans, including the fraudulent loans with which he and Conner allegedly assisted each other.
In the process of defrauding FirstCity Bank and the “participating” banks, Conner, Coe, and their co-conspirators allegedly routinely misled federal and state bank regulators and examiners to conceal their unlawful scheme. They also unsuccessfully sought federal government assistance through the U.S. Treasury Department’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”) and engaged in other misconduct in an attempt to avoid seizure by regulators and prevent the discovery of their fraud.
The charge against Conner for conducting a continuing financial crimes enterprise carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, a maximum sentence of life in prison, and a potential fine of up to $10 million. The conspiracy and bank fraud charges against Conner and Coe, and a remaining charge against Coe for fraudulently influencing the actions of a federally-insured bank, carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a potential fine of up to $1 million on each count. In determining the actual sentences for each defendant, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said, “The entire country has felt the deep economic impact of failed banks. At the heart of this indictment is an abuse of power by key insiders, who are charged with tricking their own colleagues into approving millions of dollars in commercial loans to fund the defendants’ own personal business activities, and to enrich themselves at the bank’s expense. Along the way, these defendants also allegedly defrauded state and federal bank regulators and examiners, and at least ten other federally-insured banks in Florida and Georgia that invested in the fraudulent multi-million dollar loans.”
FDIC Inspector General Jon Rymer said, “The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is pleased to join the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and our law enforcement colleagues in announcing this Indictment. We are particularly concerned when former senior bank officials, who have held positions of trust within their institutions, are alleged to have been involved in criminal activity. We will continue to aggressively pursue bank officials and others who victimize financial institutions.”
Neil Barofsky, SIGTARP Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said, “Today’s indictment marks yet another occasion where bank executives are alleged to have turned to criminal fraud in the midst of the financial crisis, including an attempt to obtain millions of dollars from the American taxpayer through the Troubled Asset Relief Program. SIGTARP will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to bring those who engage in such crimes to justice.”
IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Reginael McDaniel said of the case, “Honest and law abiding citizens are fed up with the likes of those who use deceit and fraud to line their pockets with other people’s money. Those individuals who engage in this type of financial fraud should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable.”
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources. The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.
This case is being investigated by Special Agents of the FDIC, Office of Inspector General; the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“SIGTARP”), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas W. Gilfillan and David M. Chaiken are prosecuting the case.