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Developer loses fraud appeal

December 28, 2012

A former Indianapolis real estate developer has lost an appeal challenging his conviction that he committed fraud on a financial institution.

A three-judge panel of the Indiana Court of Appeals on Wednesday affirmed Christopher White’s 2009 conviction resulting from a $500,000 bad check he wrote as he tried to save his real estate development firm, Premier Properties USA Inc.

A Marion Superior Court judge sentenced White to one year on home detention and three years of probation, and also ordered him to pay $382,486 in restitution to The National Bank of Indianapolis.

On appeal, White claimed his counsel was ineffective at trial and that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction.

The appellate judges, however, affirmed the jury’s guilty verdict.

White’s conviction on the fraud charge stemmed from a $500,000 check he wrote in 2008 to make payroll, as financial and legal troubles mounted on the company he founded. The check, deposited to an account at NBI, was drawn on an account at Chase with a balance of less than $1,000.

White argued on appeal that he had previously transferred money or made deposits to cover overdrafts, and this instance was no different. But an NBI executive testified that the transfer was unusual because the bad check had been presented from another bank, Chase, for deposit at NBI.

“White ordered the issuance of a check that he knew had virtually no value for deposit with NBI, waited until the payroll had been paid, and then informed NBI that the check would be dishonored,” Appellate Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote. “The evidence is sufficient to support White’s conviction for fraud on a financial institution.”

White also argued on appeal that his trial counsel was ineffective because it should have called an NBI employee who handled his personal and business accounts as a witness.

But the trial court found that her testimony at a previous hearing would not have altered the outcome of the trial.

White’s Premier Properties developed the Metropolis shopping center in Plainfield.

Premier built a reputation for taking on daring projects with little margin for error, but when credit markets tightened, troubles quickly mounted. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April 2008. A month later, a judge converted the case to Chapter 7 and ordered the company to be liquidated.
 

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