Former Oklahoma Punter Sentenced in Bank Fraud Case to Pay Off Bookie Debts

Posted on: May 11, 2019, 08:17h. 

Last updated on: May 11, 2019, 08:17h.

A former University of Oklahoma football player was sentenced to more than two-and-a-half years in federal prison on Thursday for defrauding a bank and two of its customers of hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay off gambling debts.

Blake Brian Ferguson will serve 31 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges he committed bank fraud to pay off his gambling debts. (Image: Tulsa World)

Blake Brian Ferguson faced up to 30 years in prison for three counts of bank fraud and 10 years in prison for one count of an unlawful monetary transaction. However, U.S. District Judge John E. Dowdell sentenced the 37-year-old to 31 months on each count. The sentences also will be served concurrently. In addition, he must make restitution of more than $144,000. He also must serve five years of supervised release after his sentence ends.

In September 2017, federal authorities charged Ferguson, who previously served as an executive for Firstar Bank, with authorizing loans based on non-existent collateral. To keep other officials from the Tulsa, Okla.-based institution from discovering the fraud, Ferguson processed the transactions within his sole authority.

It was all part of a scheme that started around 2008 when Ferguson began gambling. Within five years, authorities said he began racking up large sums of gambling debts.

…(T)he real purpose of the loans was to provide himself with funds with which he could pay his gambling debts and that the real beneficiary of the loan proceeds was himself and, ultimately, his bookies,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin C. Leitch in charging Ferguson.

In one instance, Ferguson allowed an $81,000 check to be drawn on a customer’s account and made payable directly to his bookie, who deposited the check with another bank.

The activity took place between January 2013 and September 2015, and according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, defrauded Firstar and its customers of at least $196,560.

Punter Turned Banker

After playing his freshman year at North Carolina in 2000, Ferguson transferred to Oklahoma. After sitting out a year, he served as the team’s punter for the 2002 to 2004 seasons. In the last two years, the Sooners advanced to the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game, but the OU lost both times.

After his football days, he graduated from Oklahoma. He worked at Firstar for at least six years, according to the Treasury Department.

He pleaded guilty to the charges in November 2017, admitting to using the ill-gotten funds to pay off gambling debts.

“In this instance, a senior bank officer betrayed the trust and confidence placed in him by the bank, his staff, and customers,” said U.S Attorney Trent Shores to the Tulsa World this week. “Mr. Ferguson’s sentence sends a signal to the marketplace that fraud will not be tolerated inside our financial institutions.”

According to court documents, Ferguson will report to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on June 24.

Brother Guilty of Similar Crime

Banking crimes, like punting, apparently runs in the Ferguson family.

In October 2016, federal authorities charged Jeffrey Scott Ferguson, who also served as an executive at Firstar, with one count of embezzling about $620,000 from the bank and another count of failing to report more than $260,000 in income on his 2013 tax return. He pleaded guilty to both counts a month later.

Jeffrey Ferguson awaits sentencing next month on those charges. The 41-year-old faces up to 30 years on the embezzlement count and another three on the improper tax return charge. The elder Ferguson punted for the Sooners from 1998 to 2001, helping them win a national title in 2000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office told KTUL-TV in Tulsa that the brothers’ crimes were unrelated. Documents in Jeffrey Ferguson’s case do not reveal any gambling debts.