Melvin Lee Wimmer is now federal inmate No. 33368-171.
On Monday, the 53-year-old Greenwood County man who pleaded guilty in May to securities fraud began a five-year sentence at McCreary Penitentiary in Pine Knot, Kentucky.
Wimmer, the architect of a failed investment firm known as Cornerstone Enterprises of Greenwood, was sentenced Oct. 2 by U.S. District Court Judge Henry M. Herlong Jr. to 75 months behind bars and ordered to pay $3.56 million in restitution to clients he defrauded over the course of seven years.
Originally handed a Nov. 27 turn-in date, Herlong last month granted Wimmer an extension so he could be with his ailing parents through the holidays.
Because of medical conditions, “Mr. Wimmer’s parents will not be able to visit him at McCreary Penitentiary. Mr. Wimmer’s parents will likely perish before his release,” Wimmer’s attorney, David Aylor, argued in a motion to extend his reporting date.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website, McCreary is “a high security penitentiary with an adjacent minimum security satellite camp.”
A prison official confirmed to the Index-Journal on Tuesday that Wimmer was processed but could not say what section of the facility he was housed in. McCreary has an inmate population of 1,402, including 132 in its minimum security area.
Wimmer filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in August, one month after declaring insolvency for his Cornerstone Enterprises of Greenwood, an investment firm that managed assets of 29 creditors.
In January 2017, Wimmer’s investors were given financial statements showing the firm had more than $3.5 million in assets. But in reality, it was worth less than $40,000. And while roughly $3 million was deposited into Cornerstone’s Bank of America account from August 2014 through July 2017, about $525,000 was returned to Wimmer’s clients.
On Jan. 31, John P. Fitzgerald III, acting U.S. Trustee for Region Four, filed a 19-page document asking a judge to deny a discharge in Wimmer’s case.
In all, Wimmer took $3.05 million from 21 clients, who each invested between $483,905 and $4,795 with him through Cornerstone Enterprises of Greenwood.
Sixty days after his release, Wimmer must start making monthly payments of at least $700.
Wimmer pleaded guilty on May 21 to one count of securities fraud.
From 2015-17, Wimmer paid himself $270,523 in “wages, commissions, bonuses and tips,” according to bankruptcy documents.
One of Wimmer’s final connections was with Howard Hugh “Chip” Turner, the beloved owner of H.H. Turner Jewelers in Uptown Greenwood, who died in November at age 49 from cancer.
Turner’s widow, Carolyn, said on Tuesday that Wimmer’s imprisonment was bittersweet.
“I’m not bitter towards him and I pray that God will show him mercy. My heart hurts for these older people that can’t work anymore and when was in court, he was pretty much delusional in thinking he could make that money back,” she said.
“It’s just sad. I think he needs to take some time away from life and re-examine himself and maybe come to terms that what he did was wrong before he gets out.”