COLUMBUS, Ga. – An Alabama businessman pleaded guilty to wire fraud in a scheme that cost his partners and investors half-a-million dollars in losses, said Peter D. Leary, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia.
Matthew Hinkle, 49, of Dadeville, Alabama, pleaded guilty to one count wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land. Hinkle is facing a maximum 20 years imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. Hinkle’s sentencing is scheduled for April 13, 2021. There is no parole in the federal system.
Hinkle was president and co-owner of Title Wave Title Pawn, a loan company with locations in Columbus, Phenix City, Alabama and Auburn, Alabama. According to the stipulation of facts entered into court, between January 2014 and October 2017, Hinkle used company funds for his own personal use, including payments for auto loans, property tax, community association fees, loan repayment for a personal airplane, retail store purchases, convenience stores purchases and restaurant purchases. Hinkle, who was a minority owner in the business, provided false and misleading information to his business partners, investors and the company accountant regarding the financial health of the business. Hinkle frequently had to move company funds between accounts in order to service customer loans, investor interest payments and other business-related payments. While using the Company funds to finance his personal lifestyle, Hinkle repeatedly requested additional investment contributions from his business partners and outside investors under the guise of expanding the business. The co-owners were alerted to the dire financial condition of the company in 2017. They confronted Hinkle, who admitted the company was running out of money, but couldn’t explain why. Hinkle left the business in September 2017 and couldn’t be reached by the co-owners. The business ceased activity in November 2017. The final restitution amount will be determined at sentencing, but according to the terms of the plea agreement, restitution will not exceed $522,642.22.
“Acts of fraud cause grave harm to their victims, many who struggle to recover from the financial losses. Fraud is a major crime and is taken seriously in the Middle District of Georgia. We will investigate and prosecute those found using illegal business practices to deceive people,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Leary. “I want to thank the FBI for their work investigating this case and helping to bring justice for the victims.”
“Hinkle deceived his business partners and investors who placed their trust in him only to lose their company and investments,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “He will now spend time in prison for choosing his own greed over the company’s trust.”
The case was investigated by the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Crawford Seals is prosecuting the case for the Government. Questions can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.