The former chief financial officer of Wyoming Catholic College was sentenced in federal court Friday to three years and five months in prison for defrauding an investor out of $15 million.
Paul McCown, of Lander, also was ordered to pay restitution and was recommended for participation in the prison’s 500-hour residential drug treatment program.
McCown applied for and received $841,862 in emergency CARES Act funding through the Wyoming Business Council in the summer and fall of 2020, according to court documents. He claimed that his gin-making business, McCown Enterprises, had lost significant revenue and funding due to COVID-related shutdowns and layoffs.
McCown came under FBI scrutiny that winter and he pledged on March 15, 2021, to repay the funds to the state.
In that same month, McCown began communicating with asset managers at Ria R Squared, claiming he was worth more than $750 million.
McCown then impersonated Kendall Hayford, vice president of Wyoming Community Bank in Lander, and fabricated documents showing McCown’s wealth at more than $750 million.
In May of 2021, Ria R Squared wired $14.7 million from its New York bank to McCown’s account in Lander.
McCown paid back the state of Wyoming using the borrowed funds.
He also disseminated money to family, friends, the college, and to Jonathan Tonkowich.
Both the college and Tonkowich are being sued by Ria R Squared to retrieve the remainder of the funds they received.
The court, during sentencing, ordered $60,000 to be paid immediately in restitution to a victim in the case, with the initials J.T. – presumably Tonkowich.
After the firm discovered that McCown had forged the banking documents showing his pretend wealth, Ria R Squared filed a civil lawsuit against him in federal court June 22, 2021, calling McCown’s behavior “a complex, calculated, methodical and fraudulent scheme.”
McCown was charged in federal criminal court the following March.
Wyoming Catholic College, from which McCown resigned in June 2021, released a statement Monday thanking “the many friends and supporters who have stood by us through the difficult events of this year.”
Those friends “believe in our mission and the bright hope our students and graduates offer. And we trust that McCown’s sentencing will bring some measure of closure to the emotions of these past months.”
The statement ended with hope for transformation and forgiveness:
“We pray that the Lord will protect his family, and we hope sincerely that his trials in this life work for his redemption through Jesus Christ. May we come to forgive him in the spirit of the Lord’s own prayer: ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.’”