EASLEY—A local banker and developer pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud on Wednesday after a scandal that spanned from 2006-2008.
According to United States Attorney Bill Nettles, William F. Binnicker, Jr., 47, of Easley, and Rufus G. Revis, 78, of Anderson, made their pleas in federal court to United States District Judge Timothy M. Cain in Anderson this week.
Law enforcement estimates Wells Fargo and Regions Bank were defrauded out of approximately $2 million as a result of the scandal, which took place in Anderson County near Lake Hartwell.
Nettles stated the maximum penalty Binnicker and Revis can receive is a fine of $1 million and/or imprisonment for 30 years, plus a special assessment of $100.
“Sentencing typically runs about 45 days from the plea,” Assistant United States Attorney Bill Watkins said. “A date has not been set, but it’s about 45 days, give or take a week or two.”
Evidence presented at the change of plea hearing indicates that Riviera Estates, a project that Revis and Binnicker spearheaded, was a failed real estate development in Anderson.
According to Nettles, at base, Riviera Estates was a straw buyer scheme where investors would borrow the funds to construct homes in Riviera Estates and split the profits with Revis and Binnicker upon the completion and sale of the homes.
According to one investor who remains anonymous, “Rufus and William approached us, [and said] we were going to make $50,000 each. They would pay all costs, we would have no money in at all and they would just use our good credit for the loans. That’s all they needed was our good credit.”
In addition to his interest in Riveria Estates, Nettles said Binnicker was the loan officer for the loans issued by Wells Fargo and Regions Bank to the investors.
Nettles stated many of the loan applications completed by Binnicker contained false statements including the purpose of loan. Most stated that the property would be a primary or secondary residence, but Binnicker knew that this was an investment project, according to Nettles.
Nettles said several applications also had inflated amounts of income for the borrowers. These false statements were made to induce the banks to approve the loans and to procure favorable interest rates, according to the United States Attorney.
During and in relation to the closings of multiple transactions, Nettles said Revis signed affidavits stating that there were no contacts or side agreements affecting the property, when he knew very well that there existed a Riviera Estates Investor Agreement concerning the property. Nettles said bank officials were kept in the dark about the investor agreements, and were also unaware that Binnicker had an interest in Riviera Estates.
The case was investigated by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Watkins’ Greenville office handled the case.