A Florida U.S. District Court sentenced Jerry Williams, former CEO and chairman of Orion Bank in Naples, Fla., to six years in prison for bank fraud.

Williams, who resides in Fort Worth, Texas, received the sentence for disguising shortfalls on Orion Bank's books, using false foreclosure sales and a round-trip transaction that fraudulently suggested the firm had obtained a $15 million capital infusion, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

United States District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell sentenced Williams, 52, to six years in federal prison for conspiracy to misapply funds, false bank entries, bank fraud, obstructing a bank examination and for making false statements to bank examiners. A restitution hearing will be held at a later date to determine financial penalties.

"When Orion Bank faced mounting past-due loans and low capital like thousands of banks during the financial crisis, Williams turned to crime," said Special Inspector General Christy Romero of SIGTARP. "He made false sales of foreclosed property to get it off the bank's books and conspired to make a round-trip transaction that created the illusion of a $15 million capital infusion. To hide his crime, he ordered that the books get cooked, and he lied to regulators."

Williams is accused of engaging in these transactions while serving Naples, Fla.-based Orion Bancorp (and Orion Bank) as president, chief executive officer and chairman of the board.

Orion Bancorp, the parent of Orion Bank, managed to obtain $64 million in federal aid from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP.

"In order to secure the capital infusion, Williams directed Orion Bank executives to increase to $82 million the amount of loans-in-process to straw borrowers on behalf of Francesco 'Frank' Mileto," SIGTARP said. "Williams directed the increase in loan proceeds in order to provide and conceal $15 million for Mileto's purchase of Orion Bancorp, Inc. stock, despite knowing that banking laws and regulations prohibited Orion Bank from financing the purchase of its own stock."

Mileto then submitted fraudulent financial documents to Orion Bank with millions of dollars of income from an Italian family trust.

"At one point, top Orion Bank executives discovered that Mileto had submitted fraudulent documents to support the June 2009 loans, as well as approximately $41 million of prior loans. However, Williams directed that the loans close, despite this information, in order to secure the capital infusion to the bank," SIGTARP explained.

The FDIC claims the fraudulent transactions cost the deposit insurance fund $884 million. Francesco Mileto, 40, was also sentenced to 5 and 1/2 years in prison along with former Orion Bank executive vice president Thomas Hebble, who received two and a half years and the bank's former senior vice president Angel Guerzon, who was sentenced to two years in prison.

kpanchuk@housingwire.com