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Sentencing Set In Scheme Targeting NFL Stars

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AUSTIN (AP) - The former CEO of a Texas-based investment firm will learn his sentence Friday for a scheme that used former NFL stars to defraud hundreds of investors out of more than $50 million.

Kurt Branham Barton, founder of Triton Financial in Austin, was convicted on 39 counts after his August trial, including more than a dozen each of wire fraud and money laundering. The charges could carry up to life in prison.

Prosecutors said Barton wanted to hang out with NFL players and used money that investors thought was for real estate deals and short-term business loans to pay for a luxury box at University of Texas football games, a $150,000 car and family trips on private jets. None of the athletes, including some who lost millions, was accused of wrongdoing.

The government said Barton repeatedly lied to investors, including his family and members of his church, and tried to get a loan by claiming he had $6 million in an account when he had only $6,000. In all, the Ponzi scheme bilked more than 300 investors over four years before ending in December 2009, prosecutors said.

Barton’s attorney, Rip Collins, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday. Collins has said Barton was trying to run a legitimate yet mismanaged business and believed it could be turned around.

Former Dallas Cowboy Tony Dorsett has stood by Barton. In a character letter submitted ahead of the sentencing, Dorsett called Barton a friend and an “honest, hard-working, God-fearing family man that cares about people and community.”

Former NFL quarterback Ty Detmer testified during the trial that he considered Barton a close friend and lost most of this life savings, about $2 million.

Other athletes who prosecutors said promoted or invested with Triton were Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell, former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake and NFL kicker David Akers. Akers said he lost more than $3 million.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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