Eufaula man sentenced to more than five years in prison for bank fraud
Eufaula resident Anthony “Tony” J. Atkins has been sentenced to 63 months in prison and ordered to pay $2.4 million in restitution after being sentenced on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice for the Northern District of Florida in Pensacola for conspiracy to commit bank fraud, four counts of false statements to a federally insured financial institution, bank fraud and mail fraud affecting a financial institution.
Atkins, 51, who is originally from Eufaula, had returned with his family to his hometown following the closure of GulfSouth Private Bank in Destin, Florida, where he had been president.
According to a press release from Christopher P. Cordova, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, Atkins was notified in 2007 by an individual that the individual’s company, which had been loaned $3.4 million by GulfSouth Private Bank, would no longer be able to make payments on the mortgage loans that had been secured by three condominiums. The release claims that Atkins then devised a scheme to conceal that the loan was going into default.
In 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, Atkins and Samuel D. Cobb, vice president at GulfSouth Private Bank, allegedly solicited Mark W. Shoemaker and William Blake Cody -- both of Eufaula -- Bruce A. Houle and Michael Bradley Bowen to take out new loans with the bank to purchase the three condominiums. To pursue the individuals, Atkins and Cobb told them that the loans would be non-recourse, meaning that if they defaulted, GulfSouth Private Bank would have no recourse against them.
“(Atkins and Cobb) had a decision to make: tell the truth about the bank’s troubled finances or take intricate steps to criminally conceal millions of dollars in bad loans,” said Christy Goldsmith Romero, Special Inspector General for TARP. “Unlike most bank executives, Atkins chose the latter and, along with former vice president Samuel Cobb, hatched a scheme to hide the loans and make the bank appear healthier than it actually was.”
Atkins and Cobb caused new loans and additional lines of credit for $3.8 million to the men they had solicited. Atkins and Cobb had used the new loans to pay off old loans that were going into default, making it appear the bank’s debt was performing and therefore Atkins and Cobb did not have to report the loans as bad debt. Atkins and Cobb allegedly caused fraudulent security agreements to be prepared that falsely represented the aforementioned individuals were obligated to repay their respective new mortgage loans and lines of credit.
In September 2009, GulfSouth Private Bank received $7.5 million in Troubled Asset Relief Programs (TARP) funds from the United State Treasury. Atkins and Cobb allowed the condominiums that were callateral for the mortgage loans to be sold in short sales, resulting in a loss for the bank. Further, Atkins allowed the deficiencies and the lines of credit to be charged off GulfSouth’s books and records.
That resulted in a joint investigation by the Special Inspector for TARP and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General.
In his press release, Cordova said, “Taxpayers lost $7.5 million in TARP dollars invested in GulfSouth Private Bank – a bank that failed after being led by two officers committing bank fraud. Bank president Tony Atkins brought in friends and family as co-conspirators in this conspiracy to make troubled loans appear current. Each of those conspirators have been convicted.”
Atkins had previously worked with Bobby Lowder’s failed (2009) Colonial Bank in Montgomery.
After a five-day trial in March, Atkins, was convicted of his crimes.
Atkins' Linkedin account said he had been president and CEO of T.A. Insurance in Eufaula since February 2012. He was with GulfSouth Private Bank from November 2005 to February 2012, and Colonial Bank from September 1999-March 2004.
Houle, 57, of Inlet Beach, Florida, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of false statement to a federally insured financial institution. Cobb, 37, of Destin, Florida, pled guilty to conspiracy, four counts of false statement to a financial institution, and bank fraud. They reportedly received much lesser penalties – less than two years in prison – than Atkins. All of the defendants faced a maximum of 30 years in prison for each count.
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