AUSTIN, Texas (AP)—The former CEO of a Texas-based investment firm was sentenced to 17 years in prison Friday for a scheme that used former NFL players to bilk hundreds of investors out of more than $50 million.
Several of his victims watched as Kurt Branham Barton, the former head of Triton Financial, gave a tearful apology at the hearing in Austin.
“I never intended for any of this to happen,” said Barton, 43, as he choked back tears. “I feel terrible about what’s happened.”
Investors including Barton’s family and church members thought their money was for real estate deals and business loans. Prosecutors say Barton spent much of the money on himself, using it to pay for such things as a luxury box at University of Texas football games and a $150,000 car.
Former NFL quarterback Ty Detmer testified during the trial that he considered Barton a close friend and lost most of this life savings, about $2 million. Other athletes who prosecutors said promoted or invested with Triton were Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell, former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake and NFL kicker David Akers. Akers said he lost more than $3 million.
Many of Barton’s friends and family submitted letters in support, insisting to the court that Barton is a good father and upstanding citizen. One was from former Dallas Cowboy Tony Dorsett, who called Barton a friend and an “honest, hard-working, God-fearing family man that cares about people and community.”
“Mr. Dorsett didn’t invest a dime,” prosecutor Mark Lane argued.
“This case was never about money in his pocket,” Lane said. “This was about Mr. Barton being a big shot…This case was about his ego and feeding it. And his ego is expensive.”