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November 4, 2011

Are you ready for some football ... Ponzi scheme sentencing news?

With apologies for the weak late Friday headline, here is part of this AP account on a notable long sentence imposed on a Ponzi schemer who bilked a number of notable clients:

The former CEO of a Texas-based investment firm was sentenced to 17 years in prison Friday for a scheme that used former NFL players to bilk hundreds of investors out of more than $50 million.

Several of his victims watched as Kurt Branham Barton, the former head of Triton Financial, gave a tearful apology at the hearing in Austin. "I never intended for any of this to happen," said Barton, 43, as he choked back tears. "I feel terrible about what's happened."

He was convicted in August on 39 counts, including more than a dozen each of wire fraud and money laundering.... Investors including Barton's family and church members thought their money was for real estate deals and business loans. Prosecutors say Barton spent much of the money on himself, using it to pay for such things as a luxury box at University of Texas football games and a $150,000 car.

Former NFL quarterback Ty Detmer testified during the trial that he considered Barton a close friend and lost most of this life savings, about $2 million.  Other athletes who prosecutors said promoted or invested with Triton were Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell, former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake and NFL kicker David Akers.  Akers said he lost more than $3 million. None of the athletes were accused of wrongdoing.

The Ponzi scheme bilked more than 300 investors over four years before ending in December 2009, prosecutors said. He was able to raise about $75 million from investors, only about $20 million of which went to legitimate business purposes, prosecutors said. Many of the investors lost their retirement savings in the scheme.

"He took my money for his fun ... and didn't do what he told me he was going to do," said Charles Dickens, one of Barton's investors.  He said victims "wanted to just get by a little better, try to improve our lot.  Now it's all gone."

Attorney Rip Collins said Barton was trying to run a legitimate yet mismanaged business and believed it could be turned around.... Speaking to U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, Kurt Barton's father, Chuck Barton, said it had been "one of the most horrifying experiences of our life."...

Many of Barton's friends and family submitted letters in support, insisting to the court that Barton is a good father and upstanding citizen — not the vicious predator prosecutors had described.

One was from former Dallas Cowboy Tony Dorsett, who called Barton a friend and an "honest, hard-working, God-fearing family man that cares about people and community."

I know that people losing their life savings to a fraud is no laughing matter, nor is the sentencing of even a scoundral to nearly two decades in prison.  Nevertheless, on a Friday afternoon before a big football weekend, I cannot help but want to encourage some readers to suggest fitting or funny headlines for the story of a man who robbed from the likes of Ty Detmer, Earl Campbell, and Jeff Blake.  Also, the fact that one of the victims who testified at sentencing was named Charles Dickens(!?!) surely is a sign that this busy week should be concluded with some punny comments on this story. 

November 4, 2011 at 04:00 PM | Permalink

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Comments

Should this even be a crime? He was only doing what so many want the government to do, take from the evil "1%."

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Nov 4, 2011 5:42:00 PM

Excellent point TarlsQtr, a guy running a Ponzi scheme to steal money and use it to buy luxury items for himself is completely analogous to an increase in federal income taxes. Not sure what planet you live on, but turning back to reality...

A Ponzi scheme with Charles Dickens as a victim??? I hope he began his testimony with "It was the best of times (when I was earning unrealistic returns on money we invested with a friend), it was the worst of times (when I didn't pull my money from a fund raking in huge returns while the rest of the market was stagnant)"

Posted by: JT | Nov 4, 2011 6:19:29 PM

The only difference between Barton and an OWS UConn grad with a $35,000 MFA in puppetry-yes, puppetry-is that the "puppeteer" wants to use a triggerman (IRS) to steal the money. A puppetry degree is as much a "luxury item" as a sports car.

Perhaps you can get Kermit to extort an extra $5,000 for you to purchase a sense of humor?

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Nov 4, 2011 6:41:47 PM

TarlsQtr --

JT has a valid point. There's nothing wrong with stealing, and this is especially true if the guy you steal from is greedy, since we all know that greedy people deserve whatever happens to them, and if that's a white collar mugging, so what? I mean, right? Furthermore, since the defense bar, for example, is so devoted to compassion and all, especially for people with personality flaws, being greedy is rightly understood to nullify the protection of the law, as JT implies. Are you not following the logic here?

P.S. Until I read this entry, I didn't know there was any such thing as a $150,000 car. I think that must be an error. As the defense bar relentlessly insists, none of their clients are Bernie Madoff, and all of them are Jean Valjean.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 4, 2011 9:54:11 PM

Bill:

Why your hatred of the defense bar? Did one smart defense attorney beat you in a case which witheld you from becoming USAG?

You claim to be rational. I don't see it.

I am not talking about compassion, though YOU could use it.

Today, the vast resources of the government can be used to convict anyone, when only they are permitted to introduce evidence in "certain jurisdictions".

It's like shooting fish in a barrell. We got our man!

Posted by: albeed | Nov 4, 2011 11:07:55 PM

hmm sad thing in some locations a 150,000 dollar car is a CHEAPIE! that the servants drive!

Posted by: rodsmith | Nov 4, 2011 11:23:31 PM

Bill,

I have been waiting all evening for the litany of posts regarding why this guy is innocent, the sentence is too long, or he is a victim of "incarceration nation." Instead, we get silence. Why? Because their entire schtick is more class warfare than "defendant" versus "prosecutor."

Instead of the same bad decisions that made them poor also making them criminals, their clients are "victims" of the poverty that also made them criminals (if guilty at all). Likewise, the rich are not beneficiaries of wealth and liberty from prison because they make decisions that provide them with both, they became rich and avoided prison because they stole and are better liars.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Nov 4, 2011 11:25:41 PM

Crocodile tears I fear. I remember the days of Jimmy Swaggart. I bet he wasn't crying when he was spending the money!

Posted by: jason @ security door chains | Nov 5, 2011 12:13:27 PM

I would like to see some empirical evidence that "bad decisions" are the primary reason why people are poor.

At any rate, I'm glad I made the *good* decision to be born to two stable, college-educated parents, be brought up in a safe suburban environment with good public schools, etc. Nice to know that my excellent judgment, which currently prevents me from committing crimes, was formed in utero!

(Note: I am not saying that being poor or having had problems in life is an excuse to commit crimes. I am questioning whether being poor should be regarded generally as a self-inflicted, easily-preventable circumstance.)

Posted by: Anon | Nov 5, 2011 3:38:23 PM

Anon,

Your point is undercut by the fact that numerous people with similar backgrounds as you end up poor, in prison, protesting at OWS complaining about being an unemployed puppeteer with $35,000 in student loans, or a combination of them all. Likewise, a huge number of people that had NONE of the advantages you did stay out of prison, enter the middle class (or better), and go to work everyday instead of blaming others for their failures.

Now it is obvious that some people are born into a more advantageous position than others (although I find it ironic that you see it as such an advantage after 40 years of the 60's generation calling mid-American suburban middle class folks pejoratives like the working dead). However, to imply that a poor kid cannot make himself rich or at least a net producer rather than a net leech on society is asinine.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Nov 5, 2011 4:05:41 PM

Anon stated: "I would like to see some empirical evidence that "bad decisions" are the primary reason why people are poor."

Seriously? Do you really need me to dig up "empirical evidence" that decisions to rob liquor stores, use/sell narcotics, have illegitimate children, quit high school, or get a MFA in puppetry instead of a MS in Engineering are "primary reason[s] why people are poor?"

These principles are not even seriously questioned in the world of social science.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Nov 5, 2011 4:16:47 PM

TarlsQtr --

"Your point is undercut by the fact that numerous people with similar backgrounds as you end up poor, in prison, protesting at OWS complaining about being an unemployed puppeteer with $35,000 in student loans, or a combination of them all. Likewise, a huge number of people that had NONE of the advantages you did stay out of prison, enter the middle class (or better), and go to work everyday instead of blaming others for their failures."

Bingo!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 5, 2011 4:59:43 PM

Anon --

"I would like to see some empirical evidence that 'bad decisions' are the primary reason why people are poor."

You won't have a bit of trouble finding it if you actually want to look. Go to the lousy/dangerous part of town and just talk to people. What you'll find is:

-- People who DECIDED (along with a goodly segment of opinion on this blog) that drugs are neat, so they started in on them, and now they''re slowly eating away their lives.

-- People who dropped out of school in the tenth grade because they DECIDED it was a drag, and now have one hell of a time getting a job because they have zilch education.

-- People who quit a job because they DECIDED it was annoying or the boss was a jerk, then did it again, and now have an "employment" history such that they can't GET a job.

-- Women who DECIDED that party time was cool when they were in high school, got pregnant by the boyfriend-of-the-week, had a kid at 16, found the next boyfriend-of-the-week, had another kid at 17, and now are saddled with a family they can barely care for, so they expect everyone else to do it for them.

-- People who DECIDED that workaday life was a drag and that making a quick buck by knocking over the 7-11 was a lot easier (especially if the clerk was half their size), cleaned out the cash drawer, got caught, and now have record and the knowledge (among possible future employers) that their character and judgment are a mite lacking.

How easy it is to avoid the sad truth that, far more frequently than the Left will ever admit, people lead the lives they DECIDED to live.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Nov 5, 2011 5:21:47 PM

"Bingo!"

Except it's not the truth. Turns out that most of the OWS people are rich themselves. Not surprising, really, someone is paying for all those puppets: mom and dad.

http://dailycaller.com/2011/11/02/nyc-arrest-records-many-occupy-wall-street-protesters-live-in-luxury/

Posted by: Daniel | Nov 5, 2011 9:04:36 PM

Thank you to the last 3 posters. You've made my day being so grateful that many people don't have such piss poor attitudes as you trio of sad sacks. It's so sad that individuals such as yourselves with nasty, negative attitudes and dispositions have to go through life and with such depressing outlooks on life. Mercy to those around you that are forced to listen to it.

Posted by: ; | Nov 7, 2011 7:01:48 PM

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