A former University of Oklahoma football player who dreamed of being a country music star was sentenced to prison Thursday after pleading guilty to charges related to phony business ventures that bilked investors out of more than $800,000.
U.S. District Judge John Dowdell ordered Timothy Paul “T.J.” Hamilton Jr., 32, to serve five years in federal prison, telling the defendant he wanted to sentence him to more time behind bars.
“The government limited me to five years,” Dowdell said. “I would have gone more.”
Hamilton pleaded guilty in September in an agreement with prosecutors to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Hamilton’s parents, whose son admitted were in on the scheme, were both sentenced Thursday to three months’ home confinement and three years of supervised release.
As part of an agreement with prosecutors, Timothy Paul Hamilton, 56, and his wife, Gena Catherin Hamilton, 54, pleaded guilty in September to lying to a bank in 2011 about their income in order to get a loan to purchase a Cadillac.
Prior to being sentenced, T.J. Hamilton apologized to his victims.
“I know what I did was wrong,” T.J. Hamilton said. “I messed up. I messed up bad, your honor.”
The son, in his plea agreement, admitted to falsely telling investors that he had signed up sport stars Blake Griffin and Sam Bradford to endorse anti-acne sporting apparel. Hamilton also admitted to falsely claiming he had obtained a patent on the technology that supposedly used gold thread in the apparel, among other false claims.
“T.J. Hamilton’s extravagant and indulgent lifestyle was fraudulently built on the financial savings of those who believed in him,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores, in a statement. “Hamilton persuaded investors to part with their money by exploiting his status as a former University of Oklahoma football player, using his church connections, making a false claim that he was a chemical engineer, and through bogus endorsements of his products supposedly from former University of Oklahoma athletes.
“Hamilton repeatedly lied to 18 investors in order to bilk them out of almost $900,000. He compounded his crime by lying under oath in civil suits brought by those same investors in order to conceal his crimes. His scheme had a severe impact on the victims, most notably a widow who lost her life savings. In court today, T.J. Hamilton faced those he lied to and cheated. He now has to deal with the consequences of his criminal actions.”
A federal grand jury in August 2016 named the father and son in an initial 11-count indictment that included allegations the pair conspired to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to engage in unlawful monetary transactions that involved the phony sports apparel line and another business selling nutritional supplements.
Gena Hamilton was added to the charges in an April 2017, 66-count superseding indictment that included allegations all three conspired to commit wire fraud. A grand jury named the three in a second superseding indictment in July 2017 that alleged one conspiracy count, 64 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to engage in unlawful transactions and nine counts of engaging in unlawful transactions.
Prosecutors, in a sentencing memorandum filed Dec. 3, recommended T.J. Hamilton be sentenced at the upper end of the sentencing guideline range of 37 months to 46 months in prison for a series of ventures “founded on lies.”
The Hamiltons “frittered away” some $869,300 that was received from investors “on a lifestyle about which TJ Hamilton and his parents could otherwise only dream,” the government said in a sentencing memorandum.
The Hamiltons used investor funds to finance shopping trips, expensive meals and trips to other cities, according to prosecutors.
One Las Vegas trip cost $32,000, which included a $10,000 wedding gift to a friend, according to the sentencing memo.
Trips to Nashville, where T.J. Hamilton pursued what prosecutors said was his “country music mirage,” racked up over $22,000 in expenditures, the memo states.
Investor funds were also spent on $500 meals at restaurants and on shopping trips including a $4,086 tab at an Apple store.
“TJ Hamilton’s rampant narcissism is symbolized by a picture taken while he partied in Las Vegas at investor expense,” the memo continued. “He booked a top-tier suite at The Palms resort where, from high above the city of fantasy, he could wade like a prince in the waters of an enchanting pool to gaze at the landscape of his dreams below.”
Meanwhile, attorneys for T.J. Hamilton said their client didn’t start the two businesses with the “sole purpose of defrauding investors.”
Rather, according to court presentencing papers filed on his behalf, Hamilton’s “legitimate business ideas” were sidelined when startup funding fell through.
Hamilton then began pursuing funding through individual investors with a series of lies regarding endorsement contracts and other business deals, the defense document states.
In the end, Hamilton “was selling nothing but blue sky and then with promises that simply could not be fulfilled,” according to a motion for a nonguideline sentence for T.J. Hamilton.
In the end, Dowdell departed from the recommended sentencing guidelines and ordered a five-year prison term sentence.
In addition to the prison term, T.J. Hamilton was ordered to serve three years of post-custody supervision and make restitution totaling $869,300 to 18 investors. The amounts owed range from $8,000 to $202,000.