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Piatt County, Illinois, Farmer Sentenced to 42 Months in Prison for Bank Fraud

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. –James R. R. Williams, 64, formerly of rural Cisco, Illinois, and now residing in Fort Meyers, Florida, was sentenced on November 17, 2023, by U.S. District Judge Collen R. Lawless to 42 months’ imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution to two central Illinois banks following his convictions for four counts of bank fraud.

At the sentencing hearing, which took place over two days, the government presented evidence that during the 2016 growing season Williams obtained a loan of approximately $4.6 million from participating banks First Security Bank and Gifford State Bank on behalf of his farming operation, RJW Williams Farms, Inc. The loans were collateralized by Williams’s assets, including grain. Williams defrauded the banks by concealing grain sales from the banks and by instructing employees of Archer Daniels Midland grain elevators in Niantic and Weldon, Illinois, to issue checks in his son’s name, without his son’s knowledge, which were then deposited into an account held jointly by Williams and his son. Williams then used the checks for his own benefit. Judge Lawless found that between October 20, 2014, and February 1, 2017, Williams caused ADM to issue approximately twenty-two checks totaling $540,505.35 to his son for grain that was actually sold by Williams and was collateral for Williams’s outstanding loan.

Judge Lawless also determined that Williams knowingly violated a court order in Piatt County Circuit Court that was intended to freeze grain sale disbursements following a citation to discover assets hearing and that the bankruptcy petition filed by RJW Williams Farms, Inc., and signed by Williams as president contained numerous false assertions.  

A federal grand jury first returned an indictment against Williams in June 2019, and he pleaded guilty to the four bank fraud counts in May 2023.

Williams faced statutory penalties of a maximum twenty-year term of imprisonment, a maximum $1 million fine, and a maximum five-year term of supervised release on the bank fraud counts.

“This sentencing reflects the FDIC OIG’s commitment to bring to justice those who defraud banks and use stolen funds for their own personal gain,” said Special Agent in Charge Vincent R. Zehme, of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC OIG). “We will continue to work with our law enforcement and DOJ partners to investigate and hold those accountable who commit such financial crimes and threaten to undermine the integrity of our Nation’s financial institutions.”

“Today’s sentencing sends a strong message that the bankruptcy system requires full, accurate and complete disclosures, and those who fail to do so will be held accountable,” stated Nancy J. Gargula, U.S. Trustee for Central Illinois, Southern Illinois, and Indiana (Region 10).  “I am grateful to U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris and our law enforcement partners for their strong commitment to uphold the integrity of the bankruptcy system.”

The matter was referred by the U.S. Trustee and investigated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation -- Office of Inspector General in collaboration with the Central District of Illinois Bankruptcy Fraud Working Group, coordinated by U.S. Trustee Gargula.  The United States Trustee Program is the component of the Justice Department that protects the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws. Region 10 is headquartered in Indianapolis, with additional offices in South Bend, Ind., and Peoria, Ill.

The case investigation was conducted by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation -- Office of Inspector General. Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eugene L. Miller and Douglas J. Quivey, along with Assistant U.S. Attorney William J. Lynch, represented the government in the prosecution.

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