Jurors find Watkins, son guilty in fraud trial
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — A jury on Friday convicted an Alabama attorney and his son of defrauding investors and a bank out of millions of dollars after a trial that featured testimony from a string of high-profile athletes and political figures.
Donald Watkins Sr. was convicted of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy after more than a day of deliberation. His son, Donald Watkins Jr. was found guilty of conspiracy and wire fraud.
Prosecutors said that the elder Watkins sold investments that were supposed to help grow a biofuel company called Masada Resource Group, but instead the pair used the money for personal bills and debts such as taxes, alimony and clothing.
“Donald Watkins Sr. and Donald Watkins Jr. orchestrated a brazen scheme in which they scammed their victims out of more than $10 million,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in a statement.
U.S. Attorney Jay Town said the case was about “deception and greed at the expense of too many.”
Watkins told a news outlet that he planned to appeal.
“We are honestly disappointed, but we respect the system,” Watkins told WVTM as he left the federal courthouse in Birmingham.
A string of high-profile witnesses testified at the trial that they either lost large sums with Watkins or that he wrongly claimed they were involved in his business venture.
News outlets reported that former basketball star Charles Barkley gave Watkins $6.15 million in investments and loans and football player Takeo Spikes testified he invested $1 million with Watkins.
Al.com reported that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Martin Luther King III testified at the trial that they were never involved with the company, even though Watkins Sr. sent emails claiming they were affiliated.
Watkins represented himself during the trial.
U.S. District Judge Karon Bowdre set sentencing in the case for July 16.