Jury agrees Equity Trust Co. failed oversight duties for defrauded investors
AUSTIN, Texas – A Travis County jury has returned a $1.7 million verdict against an Ohio-based financial services firm, finding that Equity Trust Co. knowingly and substantially aided a notorious Ponzi scheme operated by Robert Langguth in the Austin-area from 2004 to 2009. The jury found that Equity Trust could have brought the scheme to an end long before Laura Hampton lost over $1,000,000. Hampton was one of approximately 125 investors trapped in the scheme that bilked investors of millions of dollars.
Jurors deliberated about eight hours before finding that Equity Trust knowingly and substantially aided the investment scheme marketed and sold by Robert Langguth.
During six days of trial, lead counsel Derrick Boyd of Boyd Powers & Williamson (BPW), presented evidence detailing how Equity Trust failed to monitor Langguth’s scheme, which involved the sale of fictitious loan participations in short-term real estate bridge loans. The trial team also included Kristy Campbell of Boyd Powers & Williamson and John Camillus of the Law Offices of John C. Camillus LLC of Ohio.
According to trial testimony, Langguth persuaded approximately 125 unsuspecting individuals like Laura Hampton to invest in fraudulent real estate “bridge loans.” In reality, he was paying off earlier participants with funds provided by the newer “investors.” Langguth pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges in 2012 and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Laura Hampton’s journey through the legal system took seven years, but she finally received her day in Court. Hampton was one of a number of investors represented by Derrick Boyd that filed lawsuits in 2012. Over the past seven years, Hampton’s case has proceeded through five different courthouses in three different states before finally being heard by an Austin jury. “This may not be the biggest verdict we have obtained for a client,” said Boyd, “but it is certainly one of the most satisfying given how hard the road was to get Laura’s case before a jury.”
“We are reminded, through clients like Laura and Jack Hampton why we do what we do,” said Campbell. “The Hamptons were victims of a professional con artist who would not have been able to rob his prey without the aid of Equity Trust. We are proud to help secure some economic justice for the Hamptons.”
Langguth was one of a number of “Centers of Influence” that had working relationships with Equity Trust that turned out to be fraudulent schemes. The jury heard evidence of how Equity Trust adopted “special procedures” for Langguth that diverted from the normal process. Boyd said, “We hope that Equity Trust will receive the message sent by this jury and take steps to improve internal audits and its alert process so this never happens to investors again.”
John Camillus, a trial lawyer from Columbus, Ohio, was integral in the victory, Boyd said. “John brought an insight and talent to our legal team that helped push this case across the finish line,” Boyd added that the case would have ended years ago had Camillus not obtained a key ruling from the Ohio courts that allowed the case to go forward.
In 2015, Boyd and Campbell led a team of lawyers that secured a verdict of more than $11 million for another victim of the Langguth scheme. In total, the lawyers at Boyd, Powers & Williamson have represented approximately forty of those taken advantage of by Langguth and those that worked closely with Langguth, like Equity Trust.
Equity Trust is based in Westlake, Ohio.
The case is Laura Hampton v Equity Trust Company; Robert Roland Langguth; and Paris Re, Inc. in the 353rd Travis County District Court. Case No.: D-1-GN-13-000747.