Georgia banker gets 12-year sentence for fraud

Mark Conner, former president of the failed FirstCity Bank in Georgia, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and ordered to pay $19.5 million in restitution for his part in several schemes that sunk his and at least 10 other banks.

Conner served in several top positions at the bank between 2004 and 2009. While there, he lied to the bank’s board and loan committee for approvals on multimillion-dollar commercial loans to borrowers who were only using the money to buy property Conner and his co-conspirators owned, according to court documents.

He even duped at least 10 other federally insured banks to invest in the fraudulent loans. This way, Conner scammed at least $7 million for himself while shifting the risk to these other firms that eventually failed.

As the financial crisis struck, Conner then tried to unload FirstCity nonperforming loans and foreclosed homes to straw buyers, who were taking out loans from Conner to buy the assets. He then tried unsuccessfully to get a $6 million bailout from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

State regulators shuttered the bank in March 2009, costing the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. fund roughly $100 million.

Conner filed for bankruptcy protection in January 2011 and left the country. He told the court he had $3,000 in cash and no real estate. However, authorities later discovered he held $545,000 in a Cayman Island bank. He also made $4 million off of loans from those accounts.

In March 2011, he surrendered to federal agents at the Miami International Airport after arriving from the West Indies.

According to the Special Inspector General of TARP, Conner’s sentence was the fourth largest it has gotten for a banker since the crisis. The largest was a 30-year sentence for Lee Farkas, who sank one of the largest mortgage lenders in the country, Taylor Bean & Whitaker and caused one of the largest bank failures in history at Colonial Bank.

“The financial crisis unveiled fraud that had been ongoing for years, as shrinking capital and increasing delinquent loans left fraudulent bank executives with nowhere to hide,” said Christy Romero, Special Inspector General at SIGTARP.


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