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VIDEO: Ex-attorney pleads guilty in 'largest fraud' in state history

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was originally published August 3, 2011 at 11:26 a.m. Updated August 3, 2011 at 12:34 p.m.

kevin-lewis-left-stays-silent-as-reporters-pepper-him-with-questions-wednesday-lewis-was-leaving-the-us-district-courthouse-in-little-rock-after-pleading-guilty-to-a-crime-prosecutors-called-the-worst-fraud-in-state-history

Kevin Lewis, left, stays silent as reporters pepper him with questions Wednesday. Lewis was leaving the U.S. District Courthouse in Little Rock after pleading guilty to a crime prosecutors called the worst fraud in state history.

Lewis pleads guilty in 'largest fraud' ever in Ark.

Kevin Lewis, a former attorney, on Wednesday plead guilty to bank fraud in what prosecutors called t...

— A former Little Rock attorney has pleaded guilty to a scheme that prosecutors are calling the largest fraud in the history of Arkansas.

Kevin Lewis, 43, plead guilty to selling or using as collateral approximately $50 million in fraudulent bonds.

Lewis will be sentenced at a later date but he could face up to 30 years in prison and be ordered to pay restitution of nearly $40 million. Lewis, who was allowed to remain free pending sentencing, did not comment as he left the courthouse beside his attorney.

Prosecutors said Lewis sold fraudulent special improvement district bonds to First Southern Bank in Batesville and then used the proceeds to buy a controlling interest in that bank and make other fraudulent investments.

"Essentially, Mr. Lewis was operating what is commonly called a Ponzi scheme," U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas Christopher Thyer said during a news conference after the plea. "... He used much of these loan proceeds to further the fraud and he also used these proceeds to fund various businesses which he was involved with as well as to lead what can only be described as very opulent lifestyle."

The fraud, which was discovered during a routine audit by the FDIC in October 2010, forced First Southern Bank into receivership and caused a "significant loss" for many others, Thyer said. Prosecutors say Centennial Bank, Citizens, Liberty Bank, First Community, Allied, Simmons and Regions Bank also provided loans to Lewis which were backed by fraudulent bond collateral.

Thyer twice called it the largest fraud ever in the state, noting civil lawsuits will likely continue for years to come but there will never be enough money collected from Lewis to repay all the victims.

The number of victims "goes way up," Thyer said, if you consider the individuals affected by the bank loss, such as First Southern Bank shareholders. At least five lawsuits have already been filed by Arkansas banks against Lewis.

While Lewis could be sentenced up to 30 years in prison by U.S. District Judge James Moody, it's unlikely he will receive that much prison time. Thyer said sentencing guidelines - which take into account past criminal convictions and other factors - indicate a likely sentence of 10 to 13 years.

No sentencing date was set, but such hearings often occur within about 90 days of a conviction.

Lewis spoke during the hearing Wednesday before Moody, but only to acknowledge he understood his rights, was aware of the maximum prison term and that he was pleading guilty to the crimes as alleged by prosecutors.

At one point, Moody asked if Lewis understood that his plea made him a felon, a status which prevents him from certain rights and licenses.

"Regrettably, yes sir," Lewis replied.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments on: VIDEO: Ex-attorney pleads guilty in 'largest fraud' in state history

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ToTheLeft says... August 3, 2011 at 12:05 p.m.

Allowed to remain free? Bet you won't see him again.

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Clothescloset says... August 3, 2011 at 12:07 p.m.

Interesting!!

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i_lay_hardwood_yahoo.com says... August 3, 2011 at 12:15 p.m.

This thief should get the max sentence. If you get caught with some pot you get 10 years. I hope they nail his butt.

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RBBrittain says... August 3, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.

@KatOne: I'm sure he had already been charged and posted bond; if he was gonna flee, he'd be gone by now. Besides, since it's Federal charges extradition won't be an issue if he leaves the state, and I'm sure his passport if any has been seized (if not revoked) so he can't leave the country.

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carmandan says... August 3, 2011 at 12:52 p.m.

It is high time that people that cause economic ruin to folks get a sentence fitting the damage they do.. Hold up a convience store and geta couple of hundred dollars.. get 20 years.. rob others with a pen and ink.. probably get 5 years.. these scumbags should be executed..$50,000,000 ? lets see.. that the equivalent to 500,000.. that's five hundred thousand $100 holdups.. how many did this pissant ruin..Life withi=out parole would be fitting.. But.. he is a LAWYER and wears a SIUT.. just shows the difference in treatment that well-healed perps get..

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clawso says... August 3, 2011 at 12:57 p.m.

Believe J.R. Hodges of Little Rock still holds the state's fraudster title at some $500 million, He walked in a bankruptcy in the 80s but others, including a S&L guy, fell.

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jeanhaley72401 says... August 3, 2011 at 1:05 p.m.

Remember the man and wife team that frauded a bank in Little Rock either in the late 80's or early 90's. I think it was First Commercial. Whatever was down in the building on the corner across from what use to be the TCBY Tower. I think she was blonde-headed. They both got sent to federal prision in Texas I believe. I wonder if they're still serving time??

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274 says... August 3, 2011 at 1:13 p.m.

There is a lot I can say about this particular lawyer, without even having met him. So I will reserve comment. But I have noticed, after having dealt with a number of them, is that they all have the same predatory aims. Lawyers all believe they are smarter than the 75% of the remaining, that are not lawyers.

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Rivs says... August 3, 2011 at 2:02 p.m.

I went to school with Kevin from 4th-12th grades. He was an arrogant prick back then and apparently still is. He never had many friends in school because he thought his sh!t didnt stink. I hope he gets the max sentence.

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dumblikeme says... August 3, 2011 at 2:24 p.m.

Future Classified Ad:

Former lawyer needs to earn $40 million to pay back some debt. I have no morals, ethics, conscience, feelings, or human decency. So I'm every bit a lawyer except for the law license thing. Please call.

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