On behalf of John McDuff, Attorney at Law
Prominent Austin businessman and broker Kurt Barton appears in court today to begin addressing accusations of fraud. Barton was indicted on 33 counts of fraud, including money laundering, wire fraud and securities fraud. The case will proceed in Austin’s Federal District Court, where Barton is expected to plead not-guilty to the allegations.
The charges are based upon accusations by the U.S. Attorney’s Office that Barton raised $50 million dollars through fraudulent means. The indictment indicates that Barton used his connections through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to find many of his investors. Details also claim that Barton used famous athletes such as Ty Detmer and Chris Weinke to convince people to invest in his endeavors concerning Triton Financial and related businesses.
Some of Barton’s investors began feeling duped several years ago when they initiated fraud litigationagainst him. They alleged that the former Triton CEO made misrepresentations concerning the use of funds that investors had entrusted to him. Federal authorities took note of the distressed investors and launched their own investigation, resulting in the pending criminal charges.
Since Barton is pleading not-guilty, his innocence will likely be determined by complex courtroom battles. This litigation will cover all the specific counts against the broker, with his intent being of paramount importance. The accusations don’t concern whether Barton made investments that proved to be poor decisions in hindsight. His guilt or innocence rests largely upon whether he knowingly misled investors through false statements or deliberate withholding of information.
This unfolding case provides an example of how fraud litigation can have a snowball effect. It can start with several unhappy investors initiating a civil lawsuit, and end up in a federal courtroom where the accused faces imprisonment and loss of assets. It underscores the importance of taking civil fraud litigation seriously.
Sources: Austin American-Statesman, “Former Triton chief indicted on charges of money laundering and fraud,” 2/15/2011; KXAN.com, “Former CEO heads to federal court,” 2/28/2011