(CN) - The 11th Circuit upheld a 15-year sentence for an Alabama man who swiped $5.9 million in state funds intended to assist small businesses and used the money for his personal benefit.
Maurice William Campbell was hired as State Director of the Alabama Small Business Development Consortium (ASBDC) in 2003.
Campbell proved to be a good lobbyist and won over $7.3 million from the state for ASBDC's work assisting small business owners.
Unfortunately, most of this money never made it to ASBDC's accounts, as it was instead routed through a private nonprofit founded by Campbell called Alabama Small Business Institute of Commerce, which he told legislators was just a vehicle for the Consortium.
But "from the beginning, Campbell treated the Institute's money as his own. He used the money to pay for, among other things, meals, clothing, cars, and vacations. He hired two employees for the Institute, gave them Institute debit cards, and told them that they could spend the money however they wanted," according to the judgment.
Campbell also used the money to entertain a group of young college-age women he called the "Little Sisters."
He ostensibly hired the women to work various ASBDC events, paying them up to $100 an hour. But he also used the funds to buy them meals, drinks, take them on shopping trips and beach vacations, and give them gifts, such as bracelets engraved with "Lil Sis" and his nickname "Sir William."
Of the $7.3 million received by the Institute, only $1.4 million was distributed to the Consortium, about 20 percent.
Campbell's graft was ultimately detected, and he was convicted of fraud. The court sentenced him to 15 years in prison, a downward departure from the guidelines range of 21 to 27 years.
On appeal, Campbell disputed the $5.9 million loss, a figure that added 18 enhancement levels to his sentence.
He asserted that he "borrowed" a mere $300,000 with every intention of using it for lawful purposes, but simply "made some questionable decisions in regard to how he spent a small fraction of the sums."
But the 11th Circuit rejected Campbell's portrayal of his crime, saying "the record does not support Campbell's 'pure heart, empty mind' narrative."
"In finding Campbell guilty of 56 counts of wire fraud for purchases made with Institute debit cards, the jury rejected Campbell's theory that he was just a little negligent in the amounts he spent on otherwise beneficial activities," Judge Gerald Tjoflat said, writing for the three-judge panel. "These findings were amply supported by evidence submitted at trial, including testimony that Campbell referred to the Institute funds as 'Sir William's play money' and his 'savings account,' that he channeled money into various accounts 'so that prying eyes can't look at it,' that he recruited his co-conspirators by promising that the Institute would allow everyone 'to make more money,' and that he grew angry when anyone questioned his use of the Institute's money."
Although the government cannot account for where all the money went, it is not required to give itemized proof of every transaction that can be attributed as a loss.
"Where, as here, a defendant's conduct was permeated with fraud, a district court does not err by treating the amount that was transferred from the victim to the fraudulent enterprise as the starting point for calculating the victim's pecuniary harm," Tjoflat said.