A judge on Wednesday afternoon sentenced Christopher P. White to one year on home detention and three years of probation
in connection with a $500,000 bad check he wrote last year as he tried to save his real estate development
firm, Premier Properties USA Inc.
Marion County Superior Court Judge Robert Altice also ordered
White to pay $382,000 in restitution to The National Bank of Indianapolis during a sentencing hearing,
and said he would consider shortening the term of probation if White can reimburse the bank for its losses.
in August found White guilty of three Class C felonies, but Altice merged the charges into one count
of fraud on a financial institution. White did not testify at the hearing.
Altice said he opted for leniency
since White has no prior criminal convictions and did not write the bad check out of greed. Rather, he used it to make payroll
as financial and legal troubles were brewing for the company he founded. The check, deposited to an account at The National
Bank of Indianapolis, was drawn on an account at JP Morgan Chase with a balance of less than $1,000.
asked the judge for a four-year prison sentence, saying White essentially robbed the bank, using trust instead of fear. George
Keely, a bank executive, testified that the bank also lost money on a home-equity line of credit with White.
attorney Luther Garcia pointed out that the bank’s relationship with White and Premier Properties, the developer of the Metropolis
shopping center in Plainfield, had been plenty lucrative for the bank over the years. He said NBI earned $950,000 on
a business line of credit in 2007 alone.
The judge sympathized with the point, adding that the bank had given White
breathing room before he wrote the bad check, and even after he wrote it, based on his word.
"Mr. White made them
a lot of money over the years," Altice said.
Altice said he received several letters
from friends and former associates attesting to White’s character. His longtime attorney, Bruce Smith,
took the stand Wednesday to do the same.
He said White, 52, who was worth $150 million when Indianapolis-based
Premier was thriving just a few years ago, has since lost all of his equity in projects, is in the process
of losing the second of two homes, and has filed for personal bankruptcy.
White has been
getting by with help from his brother and parents, and is trying to find a way to
claw back into the real estate business, Smith said. He declined to discuss the hearing’s outcome with
"He’s basically lost everything," said Smith, who most
recently served as Premier’s general counsel.
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.