William S. Ferguson II, the former owner of a now-closed collection agency in Baton Rouge, La., was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to three counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Ferguson, who owned Bush & Kennedy Inc., operated a scheme that defrauded Chase Bank and Hancock Bank through the intentional deposit of bogus checks into Bush & Kennedy’s accounts, his plea agreement states. Once the checks were deposited into those accounts, he withdrew money he knew would not be covered by the checks, he admitted in the plea agreement.

A federal grand jury had indicted Ferguson on 61 counts of bank fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft. The thefts alleged against him occurred in 2006. He was charged in the case last July (see story).

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson ordered Ferguson, 59, of LaPlace, La., to pay $304,477 in restitution to Chase and $126,992 in restitution to Hancock. Ferguson must report to the federal Bureau of Prisons by June 4. The sentence includes 27 months on the bank fraud charges and 24 months on the identity theft charge, with the terms to run consecutively.

At the request of the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, state District Judge Mike Caldwell signed an order in December 2009 prohibiting Bush & Kennedy, Ferguson and the company’s chief financial officer from doing business. State prosecutors said then that the firm had been the subject of dozens of complaints from at least 30 states since 2001.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Bourgeois said Ferguson’s criminal conduct occurred "over the better part of a year," he told the Baton Rouge Advocate. Ferguson told Jackson he takes full responsibility for his criminal actions and he regrets those actions, which he said brought “shame’’ to himself and his family.

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