With attorney Hilton Conger by his side, B. Don James stood before U.S. District Court Judge Todd Campbell in Nashville Friday afternoon and pleaded guilty to all 15 counts of wire fraud totaling more than $1.8 million dollars as charged in the indictment against him.
While each count carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000, Judge Campbell announced during the hearing that the anticipated recommended sentencing range, under the plea agreement, is 97 months to 121 months imprisonment and a fine range of $15,000 to $150,000. The court may also impose an additional fine amount to cover all or part of the costs of any term of incarceration, supervised release, or probation as provided by federal law.
James has not yet been sentenced. That will come during a sentencing hearing set for Friday, May 25th at 1:00 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Nashville.
James will remain free on his current conditions of release pending further order of the court.
During the hearing, Judge Campbell summarized the charges in the indictment and then asked James to tell the court in his own words what he did that led to these offenses. James replied, \" I was proposing to do things with the investors money that I didn't do. I didn't think it would fail, but I was wrong.\"
Judge Campbell asked James if he was under the influence of any medication that would keep him from understanding the charges against him or the terms of his plea. James answered that he was taking prescribed medication for high blood pressure, ulcers, and a mental condition, but that he only took those medicines at night and that they had no affect on his mental state during the hearing.
Investigator Terry Hembree of the 13th Judicial District presented a summary of the prosecution's case against James, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Williamson.
Hembree told the court that \"From on or about 1997 up to and including on or about 2004, James defrauded investors by telling them that their funds would be used to purchase premium financing contracts when in fact James did not intend to use the funds in that manner. In fact, from at least 1997, Investors Insurance Finance did not invest any funds in premium financing contracts.\"
James operated an insurance-related business known as \"B. Don James & Son's Insurance\" and another business known as \"Investors Insurance Finance\" which was brokering investment in insurance premium financing.
According to Hembree, \" James made additional representations to potential investors that if they invested their funds with Investors Insurance Finance, he would invest their funds in premium financing contracts, that the investors would received fixed and guaranteed rates of return, and that the only way that the investors could lose the money that they invested with Investors Insurance Finance would be if James himself stole it.\"
\"In fact, James knew that there were no guaranteed rates of return because he was not investing the money in the manner promised, and that even if he had invested the money that way, he could not have guaranteed the rates of return promised. In order to convince his investors that their money was invested in the manner James represented, he made payments to his investors which he represented to be interest payments accruing as a result of premium finance contracts that James had purportedly purchased on the investors' behalf when, in actuality, the funds used to make the supposed interest payments were other investors' funds that James was using to disguise the fact that he had not invested any funds in premium financing contracts.\"
Hembree explained that on at least fifteen occasions, James caused interstate wire communications to be transmitted from Tennessee to Alabama in order to make deposits of investors funds totaling more than $1.8 million dollars although the total loss caused by the instant fraud, including conduct not charged in the indictment, exceeded $7 million dollars. In addition, more than 50 people were defrauded by James' scheme.\"
The wire fraud apparently amounted to James making deposits in a local bank, which were later electronically transferred to a bank location in another state.
Only two of the investors were present for Friday's hearing but neither of them were asked to speak during the proceedings.