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Man guilty of stealing life savings

Families listen to schemer apologize in federal court

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Dan and Mildred McAvoy will never know how much of their money Walter Marion Williams stole.



The Washington, Ga., couple died within five days of each other last summer, just a few months before the FBI began investigating Williams, an Augusta insurance agent, on accusations that he defrauded at least 16 investors out of almost $2 million.

Dan was a small-time turkey farmer. Mildred, his wife, was a seamstress for a textile plant.

The couple didn't have much money, but what they did have, they saved for their children.

All of that is gone now.

"They believed that he was a trustworthy person and a good Christian," said Claudia McAvoy, the couple's daughter-in-law. "They never would have thought he would have done anything like this."

What Williams did -- to devastating effect -- was devise a scheme that ultimately led to the theft of $1.7 million from his friends, family and longtime customers.

On Wednesday, he stood before many of those same people in federal court to plead guilty to those crimes.

Over a roughly 17-year period that began in May 1992, Williams, who at one time owned the insurance and investment company Walt Williams Insurance Associates on Wheeler Road, took thousands from his clients to invest in what he claimed were high-return investments, according to charges brought by the U.S. Attorney's Office. But the money never made it into the accounts he promised.

In court testimony, FBI Special Agent Paul Kubala described how Williams admitted to him last October that he had embezzled the money for his own use.

"Mr. Williams deposited those proceeds in his business and personal accounts and did not invest those proceeds as indicated," Kubala said. "It's sad because the makeup of the individual investors, a lot of them, this is their life savings. They trusted Mr. Williams."

As the scam continued and investors began inquiring about their money, Williams began gambling frequently, traveling to Las Vegas and Atlantic City to try to win money to cover his crimes.

"Mr. Williams told us when we interviewed him at the end he was entering poker tournaments -- gambling tournaments -- on the hope of hitting it big to pay off the investors," Kubala testified. "That has not happened."

As the investors became more aggressive, Kubala said, Williams began running a kind of "ponzi scheme," using money from one account to pay another.

In court, Kubala described it as "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Well-dressed and clear-spoken, Williams faced U.S. District Court Judge J. Randal Hall on Wednesday and confessed.

Calmly, he told the judge he used the bulk of the money to pay bills and only a small amount to gamble. Behind him, at least 15 victims and their representatives watched intently for an apology. A few of them shook their heads when it came.

"I took money and used it for my own personal use," Williams said. "That was wrong, and I'm ashamed of what I've done. I hurt a lot of good people. I had every intention of giving them their money back and I wasn't able to do it."

Lamar LeRoy doesn't believe a word of it. Friends with Williams since the two were in their 20s and doing iron work at Savannah River Site, LeRoy said he believes Williams still has the bulk of the stolen money.

"There's not going to be any restitution because he's hid his money," LeRoy said.

As part of his plea deal, the court could order Williams to repay the victims. He also faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release, according to a news release.

Until his sentencing -- which has yet to be scheduled -- he is free on bond. There's to be no drinking, no travel outside the area and -- at the request of the U.S. attorneys -- no gambling.

Comments (41) Add comment
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andywarhol
0
Points
andywarhol 03/25/10 - 01:02 am
0
0
He needs to receive the max.

He needs to receive the max. It takes many people a lifetime to save and invest that kind of money. It is money that would've continued to grow, forever changing the lifestyle of the family tree. He has ruined the lives of generations to follow. For this he should loose his free life as well.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 03/25/10 - 04:15 am
0
0
It's easy to cheat people who

It's easy to cheat people who trust you. Friends and family can be scammed because the know you'll never do them like that. There's some serious low-lifes out there doing business.

CitadelCadetCaravan
0
Points
CitadelCadetCaravan 03/25/10 - 04:27 am
0
0
Oh, come on, folks...this is

Oh, come on, folks...this is just his way of "spreading the wealth".

trwillis
12
Points
trwillis 03/25/10 - 05:04 am
0
0
never trust another man with

never trust another man with your money.

justus4
111
Points
justus4 03/25/10 - 06:22 am
0
0
Now, ol' Walt must be some
Unpublished

Now, ol' Walt must be some salesman and fooled a lot of people, which proves how trusting some people are...but how will our justice system deal with this horrible person and what will be the sentence? Will it fit the crimes? Answer: NO! This guy may get less than five yrs - five years - for all the lives he destroyed, a few yrs away for stealing over 1 million. But some are rotting in jail for taking less than twenty - This is called white-collar crimes. They are treated with kid gloves.

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 03/25/10 - 06:48 am
0
0
There is sure plenty of this

There is sure plenty of this going on these days. Best defense is a Dave Ramsey course. His lesson on investing is great. Add some market timing using something simple like winter/summer, 70 day moving average, or purchase one from someone who has a system for timing. The Bible says to spread your money between 7 or 8 people. Even if one is a crook another one might be super. You only need one that can hit homeruns on a regular basis

corgimom
36879
Points
corgimom 03/25/10 - 06:47 am
0
0
Hey Justus, being the skilled

Hey Justus, being the skilled observer that you are, I would love to hear your thoughts about those 5 black teens that were killed in Newark NJ and have been missing for all these years. You know, they were lured into a house, the house was barracaded, and then set on fire.

The two perpetrators of this horrific crime are black. Are you concerned that the "corrupt courts" will not handle this properly? Great country, eh? I wonder if U know who will be the judge on this case.

corgimom
36879
Points
corgimom 03/25/10 - 06:49 am
0
0
We pause for a commercial

We pause for a commercial break.

If Dave Ramsey has all the answers, why does he waste his time teaching investment courses?

peonynut
2
Points
peonynut 03/25/10 - 06:55 am
0
0
You can't place all the blame

You can't place all the blame on him. What about those folks wanting something for nothing. "if it sounds to good to be true then it probably is."

soldout
1280
Points
soldout 03/25/10 - 06:55 am
0
0
I didn't say he has all the

I didn't say he has all the answers but he loves to help others learn the answers. It is called ministry and nothing satisfies like ministry. Loving to help other people is never a waste because of the law of sowing and reaping. It is a law that works for you or against you and people get to choose which way they want it to work. Mr. Williams sowed bad seed and will get his crop. Those that lost need a Dave Ramsey course and they need to become givers to God's work if they aren't and they will have a great chance of recovery.

isaidit
0
Points
isaidit 03/25/10 - 07:19 am
0
0
Thanks for getting your post

Thanks for getting your post BACK ON TRACK mom. That was not cool, and so beneath a person of your demonstrated intellect. Let's stop instigating race for just one day, can we?! It takes away from the interesting exchange of views. Pleeaassee mom? That was not cool!

1941
4
Points
1941 03/25/10 - 08:20 am
0
0
He will do his six months and

He will do his six months and move on!! This is what you call ''white collar crime'' Why don't people who have money to ''so call invest'' just put it in the bank, and draw what little intrest they can, and stop beign greedy, and trying to get rich quick!!!!

bankgirl
0
Points
bankgirl 03/25/10 - 08:36 am
0
0
This is like the Augusta

This is like the Augusta version of the t.v. show The O.C.

tnrose
0
Points
tnrose 03/25/10 - 08:38 am
0
0
Why were my posts deleted?

Why were my posts deleted?

americafirst
966
Points
americafirst 03/25/10 - 08:42 am
0
0
These people weren't looking

These people weren't looking to get rich quick. They were just looking for solid low risk investments that fit in with their age and future plans and needs. He sat in many of their living rooms explaining how he could provide just that all the time knowing that he had of intention of investing any of their money but was just going to use it to support himself and his wife. There is no one to blame but Williams. Any suggestion otherwise is just ludicrous. What his wife knew and how much she knew is unknown at this point. But there is no doubt she was very much involved in the business. I am sure there were people who thought Walt was "one of the nicest men they have ever known" as well.

tnrose
0
Points
tnrose 03/25/10 - 08:45 am
0
0
aww I'm sorry if I hurt your

aww I'm sorry if I hurt your feeling by calling you out. I must have embarrassed you to go as far as having my posts deleted. So sorry!

americafirst
966
Points
americafirst 03/25/10 - 08:56 am
0
0
tnrose: Point well taken.

tnrose: Point well taken.

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 03/25/10 - 09:33 am
0
0
Never trust another man with

Never trust another man with your money or your life, or your wife.

airbud7
1
Points
airbud7 03/25/10 - 09:45 am
0
0
Before he pays restitution to

Before he pays restitution to the victims he has to pay a fine of $250,000. The goverment always comes first.

stillamazed
1488
Points
stillamazed 03/25/10 - 09:46 am
0
0
1941, he was wrong so why

1941, he was wrong so why would you try to put the blame on the victims? He should not be allowed to get out of jail as long as he owes a penny to anyone and if he ever does get out he and his family should be watched very closely for any signs that he may be spending a penny of those peoples hard earned money. (funny themaninthemirror...)

gwinnettman
0
Points
gwinnettman 03/25/10 - 09:52 am
0
0
I'm sure Walt and Dianne have

I'm sure Walt and Dianne have enough put away to live comfortably, for the rest of their life. I'm looking forward to seeing her at a family reunion, she and I will have a heart to heart talk.

citizenna
6
Points
citizenna 03/25/10 - 10:15 am
0
0
To those who are stating it

To those who are stating it was the victims fault .... My 77 yr old grandmother sits at home and cries, worries and feels ashamed that she trusted this piece of dung! He appealed to her as a good christian man. He sympathized with certain horrible events that have happened in her life, such as the loss of a grandchild. The majority of the people this lying gambler took for granted were ederly who were trying to leave a little something behind for their families or in my grandmother's case.... the money she had to live on. You can no longer trust anyone any more. What a sad world we live in. I certainly hope he enjoyed all those trips to Vegas! Just makes me want to scream!

citizenna
6
Points
citizenna 03/25/10 - 10:34 am
0
0
qwinnettman.... How horrible!

qwinnettman.... How horrible! I will be praying for you and your family. My grandmother did not go to the hearing yesterday...she can't handle all this. It's disgusting and horrible.

corgimom
36879
Points
corgimom 03/25/10 - 10:37 am
0
0
Americafirst- "took thousands

Americafirst- "took thousands from his clients to invest in what he claimed were high-return investments"

Those swindlers are good, and know just what to say, but none of them ever say "We pay less interest than a bank"

baronvonreich
0
Points
baronvonreich 03/25/10 - 10:54 am
0
0
Dave Ramsey has built an

Dave Ramsey has built an empire and made a fortune teaching common sense to people who have very little common sense, ability to reason, and willpower. With this era of parenting and government schooling and lack of accountability it is no wonder. His investment advice is minimal but for the novice probably prudent. I will save you time and money.
1. Don't get in debt other than for your house.
2. If in debt, get rid of all credit cards (this is stupid but the lack of willpower in people is amazing), tighten your belt all the way, do without any and all excesses, so no to your lazy kids, and eat rice and beans until out of debt.
3. Save 6 months worth of emergency funds to live on.
4. Invest in growth mutual funds.
Like I said his investment advice is minimal and hasn't worked in a decade. The moral of the story to only buy what you can afford. It really is just common sense.

gwinnettman
0
Points
gwinnettman 03/25/10 - 10:59 am
0
0
Walt's judge will probably be

Walt's judge will probably be a friend of his, his punishment will be a $30 fine, then they will go play a round of golf.

Cadence
219
Points
Cadence 03/25/10 - 11:53 am
0
0
Citizenna, I am so sorry

Citizenna, I am so sorry about your grandmother. She did nothing wrong. I hope that some restitution is paid to her and the other victims.

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 03/25/10 - 12:26 pm
0
0
baronvonreich- If one

baronvonreich- If one listen's closely to Dave Ramsey's story, it doesn't take long before the facts don't add up. He supposedly filed bankruptcy because his real estate empire crumbled, and according to him he filed chapter 7, which means a total liquidation, but he often likes to relate to how he and his wife used his "snowball" method to pay off debt. If he was working to pay off debt after the bankruptcy, where did the money come from? Also, he says that when he first started his radio show, which was his first business venture after his bankruptcy, he offered it to radio stations for free, again how did a man who just filed bankruptcy have the money to start a radio show and financial advice business? I don't know that he has ever ripped enybody off, but he certainly has a lot of suckers that follow him!

Just tired
0
Points
Just tired 03/25/10 - 01:21 pm
0
0
Let me tell you how this all

Let me tell you how this all works. Mr. Williams may serve a little bit of time and then after a few years will reapply to work in the insurance industry again. And he WILL be reinstated into the industry. The reason given will be, we don't want to keep a man from his livelihood. Heard it, seen it, was disgusted by it. Several area "agents" with equally checkered past's are back out preying on folks around the country in one manner or another after having been caught stealing from clients in the past. Nothing new... Same old story just different names. But they're probably all "buds".

disssman
6
Points
disssman 03/25/10 - 02:30 pm
0
0
Well aside from being a

Well aside from being a sport, poker is a high return investment. Don't you just love the restrictions placed on him? Who wants to bet he spends his entire time in a country club facility playing golf with his peers if he actually spends time? Yeah we are a country of laws. It is just that some laws apply to only some people.

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