Thomas Hebble stood in federal court in Fort Myers on Monday to formally plead guilty to his involvement in a bank fraud conspiracy.
Hebble, 50, is a former executive vice president for the failed Orion Bank, which was headquartered in Naples. He told a federal judge that he helped carry out a plan to illegally raise more capital for the bank and to fraudulently sell off bad loans to a borrower, who was also charged for his involvement in the scheme.
Hebble said his role was to “oversee the transaction.” He said he made sure the deal was approved and that it closed, working with two other Orion executives, ex-CEO Jerry Williams and Joey Guerzon Jr., who was a senior vice president for the bank in Palm Beach Gardens.
Hebble said he put false information into Orion’s books to make federal regulators believe the bank was in better financial shape.
In the scheme, he said two loans were made that exceeded $80 million, with $15 million returned to the bank for the illegal purchase of stock.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas Frazier asked Hebble a series of questions before he accepted the guilty plea.
Hebble signed a plea agreement on March 31, the same day federal prosecutors announced a federal grand jury’s indictment of Williams.
The 13-count indictment against Williams followed months of secretive investigations involving multiple agencies, including the FBI, the IRS, the Federal Reserve Board’s Office of Inspector General and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC.
Two other defendants appeared in federal court on Monday to plead guilty for their involvement: Guerzon, 42, and Francesco Mileto, 40, of Tamarac, Fla., who was the borrower. Both signed plea agreements in March.
Guerzon and Hebble face up to five years in a federal prison for their involvement in the conspiracy, as well as fines of up to $250,000.
Mileto is looking at steeper fines and up to 30 years in prison for his role. All could be ordered to pay restitution to victims, which include the bank’s former employees and other shareholders in Orion’s holding company.
Williams, 51, has pleaded not guilty to his charges and is out on bond. He is accused of misapplying bank funds, falsifying financial reports, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. He’s seeking a trial, but a date has not yet been set.