July 5, 2019
By Dominic J Bartolone
Contributing Editor, Fraud Friday
Fraud Friday – Former Oklahoma Punter Sentenced in Bank Fraud Case
A Former University of Oklahoma football star will serve more than two and a half years behind bars after being sentenced to 31 months for committing fraud against a bank and two of its customers to pay off his gambling debts.
Blake Brian Ferguson, 37, faced up to 30 years in federal prison for the three counts of bank fraud and ten more years for one count of unlawful monetary transaction, but U.S. District Judge John E. Dowdell sentenced the former bank officer to 31 months on each count. The sentences will run concurrently followed by five years of supervised probation, in addition to being ordered to pay $144,000 in restitution.
Ferguson served as an executive for Firstar Bank in Oklahoma when he was charged in 2017 by federal authorities.
The problems began in 2008, when Ferguson developed a heavy gambling habit and began racking up significant debts over the next several years.
Beginning around 2013, Ferguson started issuing loans to bank customers based on non-existent collateral, but funneled the loan funds to himself to pay his bookie. To keep management in the dark, he processed the transactions within his sole executive authority. According to prosecutors, the scheme continued until 2015, with the U.S. Treasury Department estimating that Ferguson defrauded the bank and its customers out of $196,560.
Detailed in court documents, Ferguson once authorized an $81,000 check drawn against a customer’s account and made payable to his bookie, who deposited the check directly into his account at another financial institution.
He pleaded guilty in 2017, admitting that he used the stolen funds to pay off his gambling debts.
“The real purpose of the loans was to provide himself with funds with which he could pay his gambling debts and that the real beneficiary of the loan proceeds was himself and, ultimately, his bookies,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin C. Leitch in the charging documents.
Ferguson served as a punter on the University of Oklahoma football team during the 2002 to 2004 seasons. After graduation, he began working for Firstar Bank.
Prosecutors also offered details about Blake Ferguson’s older brother, Jeffrey Scott Ferguson, who also served as an executive for Firstar, and who was convicted of embezzling about $620,000 from the bank, as well as failing to report more than $260,000 in income on his 2013 tax return.
In 2016, he pleaded guilty to both charges, and awaits sentencing, facing up to 30 years on the embezzlement count and another three years for the improper tax return.
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores issued a statement saying that as his role as a senior bank officer, Blake Ferguson betrayed the trust placed in him by the bank. “Mr. Ferguson’s sentence sends a signal to the marketplace that fraud will not be tolerated inside our financial institutions,” Shores said.