October 27, 2017
Fraud Friday — SIGTARP Ensnares Borrower of a Failed Community Bank
By Bob Coleman
Editor, Fraud Friday
Thomas Comer of Mississippi owned a small business that shipped gravel on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
His business failed during the Great Recession. Unfortunately his loans to purchase the barges were from a failed Alabama community bank — a bank that took TARP funds from the U.S. Treasury.
Says the Inspector General, “Today’s plea is an important step in the fight against fraud that hurt a TARP bank and cost taxpayers. One week after taxpayers funded Bank of Vernon with $6 million in a TARP program to foster small business lending, the bank loaned money to Thomas Comer to buy river barges. Months later, Comer sold the barges that served as collateral for the loans, and defrauded the bank, keeping the money for himself rather than repaying the loans. Fraud against a TARP bank is fraud against taxpayers, as seen here when the bank could not repay TARP in full and Treasury took a loss of nearly half a million dollars.”
U.S Attorney Jay E. Town adds, “Those who greedily seek a self-indulgent advantage during times of calamity, especially in times of financial crisis or natural disaster, will be vigorously prosecuted by the United States.
The FBI concurs, “Mr. Comer ultimately stole from tax-paying citizens in order to line his own pockets. The FBI and our partners will continue to pursue and bring to justice those who perpetrate this type of fraud.”
From the SIGTARP press release:
Comer had an established banking relationship with the Bank of Vernon in Lamar County and in March 2009 obtained a $295,922 business loan to buy nine barges, according to the plea agreement. The loan documentation designated the barges as security for the loan.
Several months later, Comer obtained a second loan, in the form of a $136,278 line of credit, saying the barges “had been arrested” and he needed money to recover them, according to the plea agreement. In early 2010, Comer sold six of the nine barges for $239,000 but used that money to prop up his struggling businesses rather than to repay his bank loans. Comer also did not inform the Bank of Vernon that he had sold the barges. Between July 27, 2010, and June 25, 2013, on 11 loan renewals and extensions of his two loans, Comer misrepresented his security for the loans, listing the nine barges as collateral, according to his plea agreement.
Yesterday, Thomas, 58, pled guilty to one count of bank fraud. He faces the obligatory ten years in jail.