Leader in land fraud gets 11-year term

Updated Oct 11, 2005

The leader of a scheme that defrauded two savings and loan associations of more than $100-million was sentenced Tuesday to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay $3-million restitution.

William Michael Adkinson and his co-defendants never repaid the money borrowed for the 1986 purchase of about 21,000 acres of pristine beaches and forests at Topsail Hill in the Panhandle, prosecutors said.

"The true harm has been to the fabric of our society," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Beard said in arguing for a longer sentence. The case was part of the multibillion-dollar S&L scandal that has rocked the nation.


U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson rejected Beard's request to use sentencing guidelines, which could have doubled Adkinson's prison time, because they took effect in 1987 after the crimes occurred.

Beard plans to appeal the sentence. Defense attorney Clifford Davis said his client would appeal his conviction.

After a five-month trial, a jury convicted the former Houston land developer and eight co-defendants of bank fraud in June. Two others were acquitted.

Those convicted were found guilty of defrauding $102-million from Hill Financial Savings Association of Red Hill, Pa., and Vision Banc of Kingsville, Texas. Prosecutors said the Topsail loans contributed to the failures of both institutions.

Vinson is scheduled to sentence two more defendants Wednesday, two Thursday and the rest next week.

Adkinson probably can expect to be paroled after serving no more than half his sentence, Beard said.

Resolution Trust sold most of the Topsail property to the state of Florida for $20-million earlier this year. The government has started forfeiture proceedings on some of the remaining beach property. St. Joe Paper Co. of Jacksonville had sold the land to the defendants for what was billed as a major commercial and residential development.

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