KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A federal magistrate has set a trial date for a former East Tennessee preacher who the government claims ran a Ponzi scheme. Court records show close to $2 million was lost by 100 investors.
It’s going to be another eight months before former investment manager Roger Williams appears before a jury at the federal courthouse in Knoxville. For people who once trusted Williams with their investments, the trial on February 27, 2018, can’t come soon enough.
Williams hastily left the court house in early March expecting to be sentenced to 51 months after pleading guilty last November to mail fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of federal tax laws. Three months ago, U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves said in light of so much financial harm caused to investors, she was “distressed” after reading their statements. Judge Reeves said she did not like the deal struck by Williams’ attorney and the government, and could not accept the lenient plea.
So, Williams returned to court and dropped his plea agreement. In April, he was indicted by the government on the same charges leveled against him last fall.
WATE 6 On Your Side’s investigation of Roger Williams began three years ago when former investors called saying they were unable to withdraw their money despite numerous requests. Others said Williams cut off their payments and they could never get in touch with him, or, records of their investments were unprofessionally prepared and monitored.
They had little idea of where their money was invested. Many gave their money to Williams and trusted him because of his reputation as the minister of a church in Gatlinburg.
In July 2014, Williams explained that his investors’ money was “gone,” he said that he was “not responsible” for the losses and he could “no longer make payments” to individuals and families. He said some had invested with him for more than a decade and he “was sorry.”
In court, it was revealed that the government turned over 15,000 pages of discovery information to Williams’ attorney who requested extra time to prepare for the trial. Several weeks ago, Williams entered a not guilty plea to the charges of violating tax laws, fraud and misappropriating investors funds.
If found guilty on all charges he could be sentenced to 20 years.