US: Former Triton chief indicted on charges of money laundering and fraud
Publicado el Feb 16, 2011
Statesman.com.- Kurt Barton, the Austin-based investor who employed Heisman Trophy-winning athletes to sell interests in deals regulators later characterized as investment schemes, was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on nearly three dozen criminal charges, including money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud.
If convicted of the most serious charges against him, Barton could face up to 30 years in prison.
Barton's attorney, Joe Turner, said that Barton had been in contact with the U.S. attorney's office and would turn himself in today . He added that Barton would plead not guilty.
John DiMeglio , Barton's partner and chief financial officer, was also named in the indictment, but he was not charged with any crimes. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Lane, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.
Starting in 2002, Barton accumulated a series of companies and partnerships based around Triton Financial. At one time, he employed former football greats Ty Detmer and Chris Weinke to sell clients on investing in his deals. Earl Campbell lent his name to a Triton-owned car dealership.
Many of Barton's investors were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which Barton also belonged.
According to court documents, Barton collected more than $50 million from investors, and for a time he lived well. He drove expensive cars and motorcycles, owned a house in a gated community and a ranch in Hays County, flew in private planes and watched University of Texas football games from a luxury box.
Barton also made tens of thousands of dollars in political campaign contributions and sponsored a Champions Tour golf tournament at The Hills Country Club near Lakeway.
But in 2009, several investors filed lawsuits accusing Barton of misleading them about how their money was being used. In mid-December of that year, a Wimberley woman showed up at Triton's
Bee Cave Road offices with a handgun and demanded her money back — unsuccessfully.
In late December, tipped off by a Sports Illustrated article that raised questions about Barton's business practices, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit accusing Barton of securities fraud.
The famous athletes Barton had lined up to support him quickly backed away, saying they were "misled" and "devastated" by the news of his actions. Soon after, the Texas State Securities Board stripped him of his investment adviser license, calling Triton's operations a "shell game." Barton's companies were turned over to a trustee.
Tuesday's indictment paints a picture of a manipulator who repeatedly lied to investors and, later, state and federal regulators about his investments. Between 2004 and 2009, the indictment charges, Barton "created false, fictitious and fraudulent limited partnerships" and "misrepresented certain facts and circumstances to potential investors."
In one instance, the indictment alleges, Barton used a statement from E-Trade, an investment website, showing a balance of more than $3 million to prove his holdings, "when the actual balance in the account at that time was $3,161.17." He also lied to investors about his college education, the indictment said.
Later, when securities regulators asked him for documentation of his business dealings, Barton "provided altered and fabricated documents," the court papers assert, adding, "These fraudulent submissions were designed to mislead regulators and conceal the on-going fraud scheme."
During the past year, the Dallas-based receiver has been untangling Barton's businesses. When Steven Harr took on the job, there were 41 Triton-related entities "with a total of $75,326.28 in cash for operations," according to public receivership documents.
Since then, Harr has raised more than $5 million selling Triton real estate and other holdings. But because so many of the properties were heavily indebted and had multiple lien-holders, much less remains for creditors.
According to the receiver's most recent statement, on Jan. 31, more than 600 investors have made $63.3 million in claims against Barton and Triton. As of the end of last month, the receiver had just under $900,000.