James Elton Warr, who operated an Austin investment company, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after he was convicted of bilking his clients out of more than $1 million from 2010 to 2011.
A Travis County jury on Friday found Warr, 69, guilty of first-degree felony charges of theft, securities fraud, money laundering and misapplication of fiduciary property. He could have been sentenced to as much as 99 years behind bars.
Assets held by Warr's company -- Warr Investment Group LLC -- previously were seized and placed into receivership. About 44 percent, or $515,000, of the money that investors lost to Warr was recovered and returned, which is considered a relatively high amount in a case of securities fraud.
Warr, who had a jovial, grandfatherly demeanor and once promoted himself as "like having an uncle in the finance business," came to the attention of the Texas State Securities Board more than seven years ago, when he hawked a guaranteed 8 percent return for investors.
His company billed his "high yield, low risk" investment plan as "designed to help you take the guesswork out of retirement planning by paying you a guaranteed 8 percent interest rate."
After Warr and his company continued operations despite a cease and desist order in 2010, securities regulators raided his Research Boulevard offices in January 2011, seized its assets and placed them into receivership. At the time, the securities board accused Warr of raising about $1.1 million from investors between April 2010 and January 2011 by selling unlicensed securities and engaging in fraud.
He subsequently was arrested in June 2015 and indicted in July 2015 on the charges stemming from his activities in 2010 and 2011. A jury in state district court in Travis County called for the 15-year sentence late Friday after finding him guilty earlier in the day.
Warr had continued to pitch investment products between the raid on his office in 2011 and his arrest in 2015, using a new website and firm called American Note Warehouse.
A brochure Warr handed to a potential investor in 2014 read: "Make Money in Real Estate Without Real Estate." His business card, which touted "Contractually Guaranteed 13% Interest" was printed across a replica of a $20 bill's southeast quadrant -- Andrew Jackson peering out across the phrase "In Collateral We Trust."
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