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Orion CEO could face 15 years

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  • | 7:37 p.m. February 3, 2012
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FORT MYERS -- Jerry Williams, the former president of Orion Bank, could face a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison for conspiring to commit bank fraud and making false statements to federal regulators.

In a plea agreement, Williams admitted that he conspired with other Orion executives to lend $22 million to depositors that he knew would then use the money to buy shares of Orion's stock. Regulations prohibit banks from financing the purchase of its own stock.

Williams also engaged in lending practices that made non-performing loans appear to be performing loans, the U.S. Attorney's office says.

Following the plea agreement, Williams' defense attorney shifted the blame from his client. "Let's be very clear: Orion Bank failed because Washington regulators chose to bail out institutional Wall Street banks and to ignore community banks like Orion," said attorney William Sullivan in a written statement. Sullivan added that his client "stands proud of the fact that he did everything he could to save Orion Bank in the midst of an unprecedented crisis."

Christy Romero, deputy special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, saw the case differently. "Thousands of banks faced losses during the financial crisis without turning to fraud. Anyone looking for a bailout from TARP who engaged in criminal fraud will be brought to justice by SIGTARP and its partners in law enforcement," Romero said in a written statement.

Williams' sentencing date has not yet been set.


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