Tony Symmes’ lesson

It was greed that brought down this leading citizen

A long, eventful saga neared its end last week, when former Chico developer Tony Symmes was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 35 months in prison for conspiring to commit mail fraud and money laundering. (See Downstroke, page 8.) He got off remarkably light, considering he’d swindled people out of millions of dollars. He could have received 70 months, the low end of federal sentencing guidelines.

Symmes, to his credit, has been remorseful and forthcoming since the day he was arrested for knowingly selling houses to a phony buyer using phony appraisals and bogus income documents. He’s been cooperating with law enforcement authorities, serving as an informant and even going so far as to wear a wire when meeting with his co-conspirators. He’s also paid more than $4 million in restitution.

At the age of 61, Symmes is trying to redeem himself. As he told Judge Edward J. Garcia at his sentencing hearing, according to The Sacramento Bee, he is sorry for his actions: “I know I let everybody down. With the grace of God, I will one day be a productive citizen again.”

Symmes was widely known and liked throughout the Chico community for both his work as a developer and his generous philanthropy. That’s why it was such a shock to learn he’d been engaged in such extensive illegal activities.

In the past he’s acknowledged that greed got the best of him. He liked living large, and he put a lot of money into his collection of exotic cars and attending fancy car shows. He did very well in the construction business, but that wasn’t enough, and he risked it all to have even more.

There’s a lesson for the rest of us in Tony Symmes’ story.