Crime

Former Lexington attorney sentenced to 25 years for fraud in oil-drilling scheme

Bryan Coffman
Bryan Coffman

A former Lexington lawyer was sentenced Wednesday in federal court to 25 years in prison and was ordered to pay restitution for his role in an oil- and gas-drilling scheme that defrauded at least 594 investors out of more than $36.5 million.

Bryan S. Coffman, 48, was ordered to report to the federal medical correctional center on Leestown Road in Lexington on May 16. Coffman, at times breaking into tears, told U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell before he was sentenced that he had said goodbye to his 13-year-old daughter earlier Wednesday morning. Coffman's wife, Megan, who was acquitted of money laundering charges in the case, and his two sons, who are college students, were in the federal courtroom in Lexington to hear the sentence.

Coffman asked the judge that he be held in a medical center-type prison because he has diabetes and arthritis.

Coffman also asked for a short sentence.

He maintained his innocence throughout his speech before the judge, but he acknowledged he was tried by a jury of his peers, who found him to be "wanting."

"I have to take responsibility for what occurred, regardless of my role in it," he said. He said he'd lost his law practice, his law license, his reputation and some of his assets, and now he faced losing his liberty.

He said that he was sorry for the victims and that he never intended to deceive them.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor told the judge about victim impact statements he reviewed. There were 95 of them.

"They tell the story of just extreme agony over what happened to them," he said. "Finally, some closure can be given to these people."

Taylor said he was offended by Coffman's claim of innocence and said Coffman's court statement marked the first time he'd uttered a syllable of contrition.

Taylor said later that some of the victims lost their retirement money, the ability to pay for their children's college educations, or their homes, or had suffered serious health problems.

Defense attorney Steve Romines said he would file an appeal in Coffman's case on Thursday. Romines said a new trial will be sought.

"I expected her to give us a big sentence, but we'll keep fighting," Romines said.

Caldwell said that the schemes were "predatory in nature" and that "subterfuge and deceit are readily apparent."

The amount involved in the case was one of the largest the court had seen, the judge said.

In May 2011, Coffman and Gary Moss Milby, a Campbellsville businessman, were convicted by a jury of multiple counts of mail fraud and wire fraud. Coffman also was convicted of two securities fraud counts and was found guilty of 10 counts of money laundering and one count of money-laundering conspiracy. Milby also was convicted of one securities fraud count. He was acquitted of two counts of money laundering.

From 2004 to 2008, Milby and Victor Tsatskin of Canada solicited money from investors across the United States and from Canada. They gave them bogus predictions and guarantees about potential profits of the oil and gas well drilling programs, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky.

Coffman provided legal and business advice with knowledge of the scheme and helped hide the scheme from investigators, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Coffman and Milby used the money to pay for boats and vehicles, real estate, jewelry, personal trips, parties, family travel and trust funds, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Recently, Coffman was ordered to forfeit $3.1 million in cash, a yacht and a condo in South Carolina.

Milby is to be sentenced Thursday. Tsatskin is serving a prison sentence in Canada.

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