Former banker pleads guilty to bank fraud

A former senior officer at a failed Henry County bank pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta to charges of bank fraud and filing a false tax return.

Clayton A. Coe of McDonough was indicted last year, along with two other bank officials, on multiple charges related to fraud at the failed Stockbridge-based FirstCity Bank. Coe was formerly the bank's senior commercial loan officer.

Sentencing is pending. Coe faces a maximum of up to 33 years in prison and fines of up to $1.1 million. Federal sentencing guidelines and Coe's pledge of cooperation with authorities could significantly reduce his sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas W. Gilfillan said in court that Coe provided false information on loan documents to get bank directors to approve a loan to a man who was buying lots in DeKalb County, which the bank didn't know actually belonged to Coe.

Prosecutors said Coe was involved in selling portions of the loan to other banks, shifting the risk to those institutions, without informing the other lenders of his role in the loan.

Coe also was accused of not reporting commissions earned from other loans he made one year on a tax return.

Richard Rice, Coe's attorney, said his client is not the man described by the government. Coe is taking responsibility for his actions and will cooperate with authorities.

Coe admitted making mistakes, but Rice said his client's transgressions were not on the scale of the bank's former president, Mark A. Conner.

Coe was indicted at the same time as Conner and Robert E. Maloney, a former lawyer for the bank. Conner pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and perjury, and he is awaiting sentencing. A case against Maloney is pending.

Prosecutors allege among other things that Conner enriched himself from from loan proceeds, unbeknownst to the bank. They also said Conner tried to hide millions of dollars in assets in a personal bankruptcy case, resulting in the perjury charge.

FirstCity failed in March 2009, and its closure cost the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. more than $100 million.