VesCor investment scam associate gets year in jail
St. George • A St. George man who was convicted in February on seven counts of securities fraud related to his involvement in VesCor was ordered Friday to spend a year in the Washington County Jail and to pay restitution. William J. Hammons, 67, was convicted on seven felony counts of fraud. Hammons worked with Val E. Southwick, an Ogden businessman now in prison for a real estate investment scheme that bilked hundreds of investors out of more than $180 million.VesCor companies took in an estimated $250 million from investors, according to accountants who examined their books during bankruptcy proceedings. It was the largest financial fraud in Utah history.Retired 8th District Judge A. Lynn Payne also ordered Hammons to serve 10 years probation, pay fines totaling $11,500 and pay $163,905 in restitution. Payne noted that Hammons was being sentenced only for convictions related to three families he swindled out of about $200,000 and not for his larger association with Southwick. Payne said he had received numerous letters testifying that Hammons was honorable."I was touched by the number of people who wrote to express their experience with him [Hammons] as an individual of great generosity," said Payne.Before being sentenced, Hammons told the judge that he was singled out for prosecution while at least 40 others associated with the scam went free. He then apologized to his victims."I'm truly sorry these good people lost their good, hard-earned money," said a teary-eyed Hammons.He said it was never his intent to defraud and that if he had known the securities he was selling were "upside down" and dishonorable, "I wouldn't have had anything to do with it. That's the kind of person I am."Robert Campbell, who with his wife lost $100,000 to Hammons, told the court Friday that people like Hammons present one face in public and another in private."Like some political and religious leaders, they appear honest and anti- this and that and then become involved in the same things," he said. "They take advantage of people's trust and need to be held accountable."Campbell's wife, Roseann, said she was hoping Hammons would have been sent to prison for at least five years but is relieved the ordeal is over. "It has had an emotional and financial impact," she said.Lorraine Cameron and her husband, who lost $50,000 to Hammons, also thought the sentence was light."I'm disappointed that prison wasn't used," she said.Hammons' lawyers declined to comment. After the sentencing, their client was taken away in handcuffs.