The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) announced that on February 15, 2012, co-founders of the bankrupt Canopy Financial, Inc., a health care transaction-software company based in Chicago, were sentenced to 15 and 13 years in prison for defrauding investors and clients of more than $93 million. Anthony Banas, Canopy’s chief technology officer, was sentenced to 160 months in prison, while Jeremy Blackburn, Canopy’s former president and chief operating officer, was sentenced to 180 months in prison. Both men pleaded guilty in late 2010 to one count of wire fraud, admitting they engaged in a fraud scheme that cheated investors of approximately $75 million and also misappropriated more than $18 million from customer accounts intended for health care savings and expenses. In imposing sentence, United States District Judge Ruben Castillo of the Northern District of Illinois noted that this case was the most aggravated financial fraud he had seen in his 18 years on the federal bench. The judge ordered both men to pay mandatory restitution and forfeiture totaling $93,125,918.
According to their plea agreements, Blackburn and Banas used false information about Canopy’s financial condition, including a bogus auditor’s report and falsified bank statements, to fraudulently obtain approximately $75 million from several private equity investors in 2009. Approximately $39 million of that money was used to redeem shares of other Canopy investors, including approximately $1.6 million that went to Blackburn and $975,000 that went to Banas, while another $29 million obtained from investors was deposited into Canopy operating accounts.
Also according to their plea agreements, Blackburn and Banas misappropriated Canopy operating funds for their own benefit. Blackburn took approximately $6 million in unauthorized withdrawals and transfers from Canopy bank accounts during 2009. Blackburn typically directed a Canopy employee, or occasionally Banas, to transfer Canopy funds to his bank accounts or to pay for his personal expenses, including credit card balances, luxury car purchases, and travel on a private jet. Blackburn also paid for personal home renovations, bought sports tickets and purchased jewelry and watches using misappropriated Canopy funds. Banas used misappropriated Canopy money to invest $300,000 in a nightclub. Banas also spent $400,000 between 2007 and 2009 on other personal expenses.