A trio of top-tier scam artists from Mesa who preyed on wealthy Mormons will spend a large part of their lives in prison.
Duane Hamblin Slade and his pal Guy Andrew Williams, both in their mid-40s, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary on September 30th to 15 and 12.5 years, respectively. Williams' father, Brent Williams, received a 7.5-year sentence.
While these are relatively hefty prison terms for white-collar criminals, the damage they did was tremendous: Most of the $160 million investors trusted with these high-rolling confidence men has disappeared.
Slade and his partners ran a classic Ponzi scheme from 2002 to 2005, investigations showed.
On the surface, the "Mathon" companies ran a company that gave short-term loans to third-party companies and individuals. But the companies were really designed to allow Slade and the Williams family to receive millions in "management fees," plus money pilfered or "borrowed" from bank accounts that contained their investors' money. The group paid off the early investors in the ventures with money from the newest investors. When clients grew suspicious, they'd be shown accounting documents that made the companies appear financially fit.
James Sell, a Waddell CPA appointed trustee to the Mathon Conservatorship formed to help victims recover some of the stolen funds, wrote in a 2005 report that the loan companies used Enron-style accounting practices to hide poorly performing assets and make it look as though their companies were flush with cash. The slick thieves lied to their targets, sometimes close friends, and created fictitious companies and documents to help close deals. Even reasonably savvy investors were fooled.
More than a dozen people were taken for more than $1 million each. Victims included former Dallas Cowboys star Danny White, who lost a more-minimal amount of about $83,000. At least 255 investors participated, the majority being Mormons from Arizona, Utah and Nevada, according to documents on Sells' website.
As the millions rolled in, Slade spent a huge amount of his time in Las Vegas casinos, living it up and gambling away his investors' funds. Records show Slade spent 83 separate days of gambling in 2004 at at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. He placed bets of about $2.2 million from January 2002 to early 2005, about the time the Arizona Corporation Commission shut down the Mathon companies. Bellagio wasn't the only casino he liked, either.
Slade will dream of those days in the years to come as he's playing cards with the boys.
The sentencing hearings for the three have been a long time in coming. A comprehensive article in the Arizona Republic back in December of 2005 outlined the crimes after the ACC made its move against the companies, but the men weren't indicted on 40 counts related to the crimes until 2009.
In January, a hung jury in Slade's trial delayed justice even longer. His lawyer, Dennis Wilenchik, who helped former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas in his ethically corrupt, 2007 attack on the Phoenix New Times, published an article on his law firm's website stating he was confident Slade would be acquitted by another jury if there was a retrial. But Slade pleaded guilty in early June when the government forced another trial.
Brent and Guy Williams were found guilty by a federal jury a few weeks later.
All three must serve terms of supervised probation when they're released. Restitution amounts have yet to be determined.
A fourth defendant, Russelll Laurence Sewell, received a term of three months' probation in the fraud.
The Mathon conservatorship site states that, as a group, investors have received 37.6 percent of their initial investment back.
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