Posted Friday, August 14, 2015 11:18 am
BRIAN GRAVES Banner Staff Writer
“I’m sorry, Mom.”
Through a quivering voice and tear-filled eyes, Troy Scot Carter addressed his family seated in a U.S. District courtroom in Chattanooga, after being sentenced to 34 months in a federal prison for one count of interstate transportation of security taken by fraud.
The former director of communication for the Church of God International had already pleaded guilty to the charge in April, and was awaiting Thursday’s decision.
It was a matter that took more than two hours to determine, as Carter’s attorney John Cavett and U.S. District Attorney James Brooks made their cases for what time and monetary penalty should be served.
The first issue was the matter of repayment of the $880,000 Carter obtained by giving the church false invoices for services the U.S. Attorney said were run through a fictitious production company Carter had established for that purpose.
Cavett argued the $250,000 the church recovered from the insurance should not be part of that restitution, because the insurance company could not be considered a “victim.”
Both counsels agreed part of the sentence would be handled separately with separate filings before U.S. District Judge Curtis L. Collier.
Carter will have to pay 50 percent of all he earns while incarcerated, and then 10 percent of his monthly gross income once his sentence is served.
Cavett also made a motion to put Carter on probation, saying his incarceration would not be a deterrent to other such crimes, and also objected to the use of two “enhancements” to the charge that increased the time Carter might have to serve.
Those were abuse of public or private trust and abuse of specific skills in the commitment of a crime.
Testimony from David Ray, who is the current director of communications for the church, testified about the role Carter played in the church’s administration, and showed Carter’s position was next to the highest role in the church. His position pays $115,000 to $125,00 per year.
Collier said that showed Carter “was at the apex” of the church, allowing him “a great deal of major discretion” in business matters.
Brooks said that position — and the expertise Carter had brought to it — “allowed the fraud to continue” for two years.
“The reason this could occur and last as long as it did was because the defendant had knowledge folks at the church didn’t know about,” Brooks said. “He handed the church a $100,000 bill and they paid it.”
He added that Carter created Platinum Productions “as a way to divert funds to himself.”
FBI Agent Scott Barker testified the Georgia address that was listed for Platinum was visited during the investigation.
“There was a production company there, but the individual there had never heard of Platinum,” Barker said.
Barker said Carter would “present invoices by hand” to the church, take the check, put it in an account for Platinum “then transfer it to his personal account.”
In his ruling, Collier stated the evidence showed Carter’s position allowed him “considerable discretion” with a “significant number of people working beneath him.”
“His position made discovery of fraud less likely to be discovered by the church,” he said. “It was only because a third person was brought in to look at the books to save money [the fraud] was discovered. There is no dispute no services were provided.”
Cavett continued his argument for a lesser sentence, saying Carter had “cooperated with everyone in every way” and also needed alcohol abuse treatment.
Brooks retorted, saying the amount taken from the church “makes the case very serious.”
Collier asked Brooks what Carter had spent the money on which averaged $450,000 a year for the two-year period.
Brooks said the money was spent on “Porsche cars, trips to New York and family and friends.”
The judge noted the money taken was in addition to a comfortable salary.