GREENEVILLE — A former Bristol, Tennessee, real estate agent who pleaded guilty earlier this year in connection with a $658,838 Ponzi scheme was sentenced to 10 years Friday in U.S. District Court.
As part of a negotiated agreement, Tammy Lynn Hawk, 47, Bristol, pleaded guilty in January to one count each of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, and making a false tax return.
Hawk’s 10-year federal prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $658,838 to her unpaid victims, and $71,062 in unpaid federal taxes.
According to court records, Hawk was a well-established real estate agent in the Bristol, Tennessee, area when the crimes occurred.
U.S. District Court Public Affairs Officer Rachelle Barnes stated in her report Friday that despite the success Hawk enjoyed as a realtor, she ultimately used her knowledge, skills, and clientele to devise and operate a Ponzi-type scheme.
Hawk would notify victim-clients of large profits to be made with quick-flip properties, take cash from the victims, and ultimately repay earlier victims with funds she swindled from newer victims. Hawk defrauded at least 24 victims and, by the time her scheme was discovered, 12 remained unpaid and had lost more than $500,000.
Court records indicate that Hawk took extensive steps to hide and conceal her scheme as well, including false statements, sham real estate contracts, the use of electronic signing services, and forgery. Hawk also failed to disclose any of these matters in connection with a filed bankruptcy case. In addition to repaying earlier victims with funds she swindled from later victims, Hawk used proceeds from her offenses to fund her own lifestyle.
“Tammy Hawk’s fraudulent scheme not only betrayed her clients’ trust, but also caused them devastating financial harm,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “The court’s sentence demonstrates that there will be serious consequences to criminals who perpetrate this brand of Ponzi scheme. This office values the collaboration among the numerous law enforcement agencies that supported this prosecution.”
“The Secret Service is proud to partner with the Bristol (Tenn.) Police Department. The overwhelming success of this investigation is a testament to our belief that building strong, trusted partnerships across the law enforcement community is a proven model for success,” said Secret Service agent Jason Brown. “The Secret Service is committed to combatting financial crime, especially in cases where fraudsters take advantage of the trust and confidence of American citizens. The Secret Service, along with our local and federal partners, remain committed to aggressively protecting the nation from criminal opportunists who choose to exploit the American public.”
The criminal indictment was the result of an investigation by the Bristol Police Department, the Second District Attorney General’s Office for Sullivan County, the United States Secret Service, and IRS Criminal Investigations. The federal investigation was co-led by United States Secret Service Senior Special Agent Thomas Whitehead and IRS CI Special Agents Nicholas Worsham and Michael Whitesell.
Second Judicial District Attorney Barry P. Staubus stated, “This corruption ploy — which destroyed the lives of many hard-working individuals — ended today. This plea is the result of collaboration between the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
“The joint collaboration between these law enforcement agencies in a complex case such as this is what ensures accountability is brought to Tammy Hawk for victimizing those who trusted her,” said Bristol Police Chief Blaine Wade.
The sentence was announced by Hamilton. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mac Heavener and Todd Martin represented the United States.