The former owner of a Baton Rouge debt-collection business was released without bail Tuesday after being charged with bank fraud and aggravated identity theft that allegedly cost Hancock Bank more than $126,000.
William Ferguson now lives in LaPlace and works as a used-car salesman in Kenner, he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen C. Riedlinger.
Riedlinger told Ferguson he is scheduled for trial Sept. 6 in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
Riedlinger read Ferguson’s indictment to the former Baton Rouge businessman, who was still in shackles.
The judge noted that Ferguson was accused of 61 counts of bank fraud and three counts of aggravated identity theft.
All of the thefts alleged against Ferguson occurred in 2006, Riedlinger noted.
The indictment read by Riedlinger alleges that Ferguson opened an account at Hancock Bank in the name of his debt-collection company.
Ferguson then allegedly wrote and deposited checks to his company in the names of other people and companies portrayed as customers, Riedlinger read from the indictment.
Ferguson is alleged to have withdrawn money from the account at Hancock Bank before bank officials learned that the checks were written on accounts that were either closed, insufficiently funded or nonexistent, according to the indictment read by Riedlinger.
The judge noted that a pre-trial services officer recommended that Ferguson be released without bail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Bourgeois said prosecutors were not opposed to Ferguson’s release.
Riedlinger, however, required Ferguson to sign a pledge to appear for all court hearings. That pledge also requires Ferguson to notify his current employer of the felony charges pending against him.