U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney
Western District of Texas

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Texas Federal Jury Convicts Former Triton President and C.E.O. in Ponzi Scheme

Kurt Branham Barton, founder, president and CEO of Triton Financial LLC, faces up to life in prison after a federal jury in Austin, Texas, convicted him yesterday for carrying out a Ponzi scheme which victimized more than 300 individuals and resulted in a total estimated loss to investors of more than $50 million, announced U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas John E. Murphy.

“It is regrettable that selfish, greedy individuals devise schemes to make themselves rich by victimizing honest and innocent people, often depriving the victims of their life savings.   These con artists are usually very accomplished salesmen taking advantage of trusting investors, who unfortunately will never be made whole again,” stated U.S. Attorney Murphy.

The jury convicted Barton, 44, of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, making false statements to secure loans from financial institutions and money laundering, as well as multiple substantive counts including one count of securities fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud, five counts of making a false statement related to the acquisition of loans and 17 counts of money laundering.

Evidence presented during the eight-day trial revealed that from December 2005 and December 2009, Barton devised a scheme to obtain money from investors under false pretenses.  Barton represented to investors, including members of the defendant’s family, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, business leaders as well as professional football players, that Triton was purchasing properties, businesses and other assets with their funds when, in fact, he was using their money to satisfy the needs of other ventures and the need to pay quarterly dividends or redemptions to prior investors.  Testimony also revealed that Barton used prominent former National Football League players and Heisman Trophy winners to solicit and encourage additional investors.  To conceal his scheme, Barton presented fabricated and fictitious versions of his E*Trade monthly account statement to financial institutions, commercial lenders and potential investors.

“The financial assault of Barton’s elaborate scheme has been as devastating to his victims as any physical robbery. No matter the complexity of the scheme, the con man can be as brutal as any armed robber,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Cory B. Nelson.

“Although the economics of the Ponzi scheme run by Barton was simple, investors need to remember that contemporary swindlers conceal the fraudulent nature of their schemes by deploying sophisticated marketing techniques. These bogus marketing techniques sometimes include, as in this case, the endorsements of professional athletes, who were themselves unwittingly used and defrauded. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Special Agent in Charge Steve McCollough.

“Yesterday’s guilty verdict should stand as a reminder to those contemplating fraudulent activity that enforcement agencies will work together closely to investigate and prosecute wrongdoers to the fullest extent of the law,” stated Texas Securities Commissioner Benette L. Zivley.

A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.  This investigation was conducted by the FBI and the IRS-CI together with the Texas State Securities Board.   Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Lane and Jennifer Freel are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.

This case was brought in coordination with President Barack Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.  President Obama established the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force to wage an aggressive, coordinated, and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  The task force includes representatives from a broad range of federal agencies, regulatory authorities, inspectors general, and state and local law enforcement who, working together, bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.  The task force is working to improve efforts across the federal executive branch, and with state and local partners, to investigate and prosecute significant financial crimes, ensure just and effective punishment for those who perpetrate financial crimes, combat discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and recover proceeds for victims of financial crimes.

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