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Judge to sentence father, son convicted of investor fraud

July 15, 2019

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — On Tuesday, a federal judge will sentence an Alabama attorney and his son who were convicted of defrauding investors and a bank out of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of 17½ years Donald Watkins Sr. and 6½ years for his son, Donald Watkins Jr.

A jury convicted the men of bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy in March. Prosecutors said 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.

A string of high-profile witnesses, including basketball star Charles Barkley and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, testified at the trial that they either lost money with Watkins or that he wrongly claimed they were involved in his business.

U.S. Attorney Jay Town in March said the case was about “deception and greed.”

In court filings, the elder Watkins, who is representing himself, said the requested sentence is disproportionately high and would be tantamount to a life sentence since he is 70.

Watkins wrote that there was no intent to harm the people that the government called victims in the case, and said he deferred salary and other payments in the interest of the business.

“In fact, every member of Mr. Watkins’ family sacrificed his/her financial security to advance and protect the business interests of Masada, Nabirm, and their stakeholders,” Watkins wrote.

He suggested a sentence of two years of home confinement followed by supervised release.

A defense lawyer is asking for a sentence of 18 months or less for Watkins Jr.

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