SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A federal judge sentenced Tim Burns to more than four years in prison Friday. This spring, a jury found him guilty of bilking investors out of thousands of dollars for a fish farm near Brookings that was never built.
KELOLAND Investigates has been following the Global Aquaponics story since the very beginning. Earlier this summer, Tobias Ritesman was sentenced to 9 years for his role in the scam. And now his partner, Tim Burns, is also headed to prison.
Tim Burns didn’t say anything as he left federal court following his sentencing for wire fraud. But in court, Burns apologized to each of the victims who invested thousands of dollars into his Global Aquaponics venture, saying his bad decisions caused them to lose large amounts of money. Burns said he thought the high-tech fish farm was a viable operation and had every expectation that it would succeed.
“When you get found guilty, you’re sort of not in a position, you take the incoming fire, what everybody theorizes about what was in your mind and my theory here was that Mr. Burns thought this would work. He truly did,” Tim Burns’ attorney Mike Butler said.
During the sentencing, prosecutors described a flow of money in which investments that went into an account for Global Aquaponics were then transferred into Burns’ personal business accounts, often in the same day. The money paid for Burns’ expenses that included credit card bills. Prosecutors say Burns misled investors about Global Aquaponics’ finances and that he only wanted the project to stay afloat so he could cover-up his crimes.
Mike Butler says Burns was misled by the man who started the project, Tobias Ritesman, who’s now serving time in prison.
“Ritesman was stealing people blind. He was gambling. Tim had no idea that was going on. And yet we tell a jury that if you think he should have known, they you can find him guilty. I just don’t agree with that at all,” Butler said,
Butler says an appeal is under consideration. Burns will have to surrender to authorities in two weeks to begin his sentence. He also has to pay nearly a half-million dollars to his victims.