Former Attorney Sentenced to Nearly Six Years in Prison for Bilking Investors of $2.8 Million
BIRMINGHAM—A federal judge late Thursday sentenced a former Birmingham attorney to five years and 11 months in prison for a securities fraud scheme through which he took more than $2.8 million from 12 investors and spent it on a lavish home, private jets, championship football trips and island vacations, announced U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance, FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Schwein Jr. and Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg.
U.S. District Judge Virginia Emerson Hopkins sentenced CHRISTOPHER SHAWN LINTON, 35, of Alabaster, on one count each of wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud and money laundering as part of his investment fraud scheme. She also sentenced him on one bank fraud count for submitting a fraudulent commercial loan application to Iberia Bank for a $908,650 loan. Linton used fraudulently obtained investor funds to pay the down payment on the commercial loan, but then defaulted on the loan by writing a $78,960 bad check at closing for his remaining equity on the loan. Linton pleaded guilty to the charges in February.
As part of his plea agreement, Linton is required to pay $2.5 million in restitution to the investors he defrauded, and to pay Iberia Bank $19,850 in restitution. The government’s sentencing memorandum notes, however, that the Alabaster house Linton bought with $560,000 in investor funds, and then lavishly improved, cannot be used as means to compensate Linton’s victims because there is not enough equity to satisfy a court judgment because Linton used the house as collateral on business and personal loans, which take priority over any judgment.
Linton must report to prison Sept. 22.
“The victims in this case trusted that this defendant, an attorney, would protect their investments. Instead, he robbed them of their savings so he could live a fantasy life of luxury,” Vance said. “I appreciate the hard work of the FBI and the Alabama Securities Commission in helping us bring Mr. Linton to justice.”
“Mr. Linton risked his clients’ retirement funds, money for their children’s education, and for their livelihood,” Schwein said. “His actions are a dishonor to those who practice law with the utmost commitment and integrity, and the sentence handed down today recognizes his deplorable conduct.”
“This Commission feels strongly that the sentence imposed by the federal court is proper and just,” said Borg, the ASC director. “We expect this sentence to send a powerful message that professional misconduct that causes damage to our citizens’ financial security, and to public confidence in the integrity of the practice of law, will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. We are very proud to successfully combine our efforts with the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, Joyce Vance, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ensure that justice is served on behalf of the victims.”
Unlike Linton, the people who invested with him “worked hard and saved for years hoping to do a small remodeling project on their home,” or to take grandchildren on vacations or leave money behind for their family, the government said in its sentencing memorandum. Some of the investors now need the money for assisted living and medical conditions, the government said.
“Linton’s frivolous spending and reckless disregard for the investors’ funds will have a lasting financial and emotional impact on the investors and their families for decades,” the sentencing memorandum said.
According to the memorandum and Linton’s plea agreement, he conducted the securities fraud scheme as follows:
In 2007, Linton became an officer, partner and part owner of a business known as Integrity Capital Inc., by purchasing stock in the company. Integrity Capital Inc. was located in the greater Birmingham area and its business was to make advance payments to lawyers who had submitted payment vouchers for work performed for the State of Alabama. Integrity Capital would then receive the voucher payments from the state and keep a percentage as a fee.
In 2009, Linton formed Integrity Capital LLC. Beginning about August 2009, Linton recruited advisors to solicit investments in Integrity Capital LLC in order to purchase the assets and capital stock of Integrity Capital Inc. Between September 2009 and December 2011, 12 individuals invested more than $2.8 million in Integrity Capital LLC. The investors mailed, wired or delivered money to Linton, who deposited the money into one of several bank accounts held by the law firm where he was a partner.
After receiving the investor funds, Linton fraudulently converted them for personal use by writing personal checks to himself and by using the funds for non-investment purposes. The non-investment purposes included, but were not limited to, the purchase of his personal residence, construction projects at the residence, private jet flights, vacations, recreational vehicles, furniture, luxury items, championship Auburn football tickets and a donation to the Heisman Trophy Trust.
The FBI and Alabama Securities Commission investigated the case, which Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin Beardsley Mark and Assistant Attorney General Greg Biggs, with the Alabama Securities Commission, prosecuted.