Matthew Sweet Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

Matthew D. Sweet, the former comptroller of One Bank & Trust of Little Rock, pleaded guilty Wednesday to a single count of money laundering, and federal prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of probation.

Thirty counts of bank fraud and 29 additional counts of money laundering were dismissed in the hearing before U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes. All the charges, including the one Sweet pleaded guilty to, were related to a scheme in which he embezzled some $75,000 from One Bank and used it to pay his personal credit card bills.

When Sweet's embezzlement was discovered in early 2012, he was allowed to resign in exchange for paying restitution. He borrowed the money — from his father, according to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Pat Harris — and paid $9,662 to One Bank and $110,665 to Layton "Scooter" Stuart, the bank's owner and CEO, who died in 2013.

The single count to which Sweet pleaded guilty involved a payment of $2,580 to Citicards.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after a pre-sentence investigation is completed by federal probation officers. Harris indicated that the guideline prison sentence for Sweet would be up to six months, and the prosecution will recommend probation. Holmes is not bound by the terms of the plea agreement.

Sweet, 42, said after the hearing that he is working for Transplace freight brokerage. 

Defense attorney Chad Green declined comment when asked if Sweet was assisting federal prosecutors in other investigations surrounding One Bank. Sweet's was the first of three indictments issued in a federal investigation into One Bank's business practices.

On the same day in November 2013 that it charged Sweet, the grand jury also charged a One Bank customer, Albert Solaroli of Jacksonville, Florida, with a single count of bank fraud for allegedly providing One Bank with a phony financial statement claiming net worth of $169 million in order to take out — and promptly max out — a $1.5 million line of credit in 2007. Solaroli, who ran business called CET Racing, never made a single payment, and One Bank received a civil judgment against him in 2008.

Solaroli has pleaded not guilty. A hearing to change his plea was scheduled for next week but was canceled on Wednesday. 

Gary Rickenbach, the former One Bank executive vice president who arranged for Solaroli to receive the line of credit, was subsequently charged in April 2014 with two counts of conspiracy. He is scheduled for trial starting March 30.