Business owner gets 5 years in prison and is ordered to pay $4.2 million to Artisans Bank

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William Cook, 63, of Berlin, MD was sentenced Thursday by Delaware U.S. District Court Judge Colm F. Connolly to five years in prison on federal bank fraud, false statement, and money laundering charges.

After a five-day trial in January, a federal jury found Cook guilty of bank fraud, four counts of false statements to Artisans’ Bank, and money laundering.

Prosecutors stated that Cook opened a business line of credit with Delaware-based Artisans’ Bank beginning in 2008.

According to a 2016 indictment Cook was the sole owner of AJJ Distributing LLC, a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in Sussex County.

As part of his loan agreement, Cook submitted weekly certificates to Artisans’ Bank certifying open customer debts; Artisans’ Bank used these certificates to determine how much money it was willing to lend Cook’s business.

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Cook began falsifying these certificates in or around January 2009, which allowed him to access more money from Artisans’ Bank.

His activities continued through May 2013. During this time, Cook used loan money from Artisans’ Bank for purposes not permitted under his loan agreement. When Artisans’ Bank learned of the fraud in July 2013, Cook had no money left to pay the $4.2 million that was still outstanding on his business loans.

As part of its sentence, the court ordered Cook to pay Artisans’ Bank the full $4.2 million in restitution.

U.S. Attorney for Delaware David Weiss stated, “The defendant lied to a local Delaware bank on a weekly basis so that he could use its money as he saw fit, and in a manner contrary to the terms of the loan agreement. As a result of his four-year fraud, Artisans’ Bank lost $4.2 million. Cook violated the trust required for lending arrangements to succeed – both for banks and the small businesses they support. My office remains committed to investigating and prosecuting fraudulent conduct, like defendant’s, that damages the integrity of our financial system. Because the money a bank lends belongs to its depositors, we cannot ignore conduct that places those funds at risk and the people who think the rules simply do not apply to them. The court’s five-year sentence today rightly punishes the defendant for his long-term fraud.”

This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the IRS-Criminal Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Whitney Cloud and Lesley F. Wolf.

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