RALEIGH, N.C. — A former securities lawyer was sentenced Wednesday to 23 years in prison for his role in a massive fraud scheme that targeted about 200 investors in 21 states, including several Baptist churches.
Gregory Bartko, 58, of Atlanta was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III following an all-day hearing.
He was convicted in 2010 on six counts related to a conspiracy to sell millions of dollars in fraudulent securities. According to prosecutors, the victims were falsely told that their investments were safe and insured, even as $3.3 million in client funds were withdrawn for personal use.
Thomas Walker, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said Bartko deserved severe punishment. Prosecutors had asked Dever to sentence Bartko to 90 years.
“Defrauding decent folks out of their life savings amounts to robbing them of their dreams,” Walker said.
Bartko was convicted following a 13-day trial that included key testimony from Scott Hollenbeck, a former Kernersville investment advisor whose role was to raise money from unsophisticated investors. For his cooperation with the government, Hollenbeck received a reduced sentence of nine years.
Also convicted as part of the scheme was Tennessee businessman John K. Colvin, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
The complicated financial fraud unraveled following complaint to the North Carolina Secretary of State’s Office, resulting in an investigation involving the FBI, IRS and U.S. Postal Inspector.
Chris Briese, Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI, said Bartko targeted church members and made empty promises for big investment returns.
“We will keep pursuing con men who put their own greed above the law,” Briese said.
Credit: The Associated Press.