LUBBOCK, Texas (NEWS RELEASE) – A young man who turned to fraud to fund the lavish lifestyle he craved was sentenced today to 14 years in federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton. J. Nicholas Bryant, 26, of Slaton, Texas, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in November 2022. He was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix, who handed down a sentence five years longer than the guideline range based on the defendant’s cavalier attitude and the egregious nature of the scheme.
Mr. Bryant engaged in various wire fraud schemes to defraud at least 56 unsuspecting individuals and small businesses during an 18-month crime spree that spanned multiple states. The fruits of his crimes brought him luxury goods and services – including private jet rides, private yacht excursions, and extravagant meals complete with champagne and steak. In many instances, Mr. Bryant manipulated online payment platforms like QuickBooks and Veem to make it appear that payments were forthcoming. Knowing that the software would generate payment confirmations immediately but would take several days to notify victims of canceled payments, Mr. Bryant satisfied vendors and business owners that payments were forthcoming when due, he admitted in plea papers. The payments were never funded.
In all, he defrauded and attempted to defraud victims of more than $3.5 million, and successfully racked up nearly $1.2 million in actual losses to the victims, prosecutors said at Thursday’s sentencing hearing. In one fraud scheme, Mr. Bryant convinced small businesses to front money and equipment to reopen an oil well. In the process, he exploited the trust of former colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who worked in the West Texas oil and gas industry, where business is often conducted with a handshake, the government said. In several others, he defrauded small business owners eager for business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government noted that Mr. Bryant did so for pretention, ostentation, and Instagram moments at sentencing. The government also observed that rather than expressing remorse for targeting companies that were struggling to survive in the midst of a pandemic that had gutted their business models, Mr. Bryant reveled in his notoriety, bragging about his crimes to media outlets and to his friends. Judge Hendrix determined that Mr. Bryant had failed to accept responsibility for his crimes and revoked the credit he was set to receive based on acceptance of responsibility. Judge Hendrix also ordered Mr. Bryant to pay $1,185,691.38 in restitution to his victims.
The U.S. Secret Service’s Lubbock Resident Office, the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Criminal Investigations Division, the Lubbock Police Department, the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office, the Brownwood Police Department, Texas Parks & Wildlife of Coleman County, the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana, and the Cody Police Department in Wyoming conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Howey prosecuted the case.