Fayetteville man indicted in $16 million fraud scheme

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 8,782 views 

John Nock, a Fayetteville businessman who once owned the former Cosmopolitan Hotel in downtown Fayetteville, is one of four men indicted in an alleged $16 million wire fraud and money laundering scheme involving fake investment offerings.

Nock, 53, Brian Brittsan, 65, of San Marcos, Calif.; Kevin Griffith, 66, of Orem, Utah; and Alexander Ituma, 55, of Lehi, Utah are each charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Nock is also charged with money laundering.

The indictment was unsealed and the accusations were detailed in a press release Wednesday (March 23) from the Department of Justice. The defendants made their initial appearances in federal court Wednesday in Fayetteville.

Federal prosecutors allege that between 2013 and 2021, the defendants’ Arkansas-based firm The Brittingham Group solicited investments from victims, in which they promised “exorbitant investment returns” that were never produced.

Brittsan and Nock are accused of directing victims to transfer money to accounts controlled by Griffith and Ituma. The defendants allegedly moved the money through a complex web of worldwide bank accounts.

The indictment also claims victims were promised large returns via fraudulent letters impersonating financial institutions.

The indictment alleges “no victim received the investment returns they were promised, and very few were able even to recoup their principal.”

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Nock faces up to 10 years in prison for money laundering.

DEVELOPMENT RESUME
Nock was formerly a real estate developer in Northwest Arkansas. In 2006, Nock and business partner Richard Alexander bought the former Radisson hotel in downtown Fayetteville and renamed it The Cosmopolitan. The 15-story hotel passed into receivership and was acquired in December 2010 by ANB Ventures LLC, a company created by the FDIC to sort through the loans made by Bentonville bank ANB Financial NA.

Federal regulators shut down the lender in May 2008, halting the multimillion-dollar effort by Nock and Alexander to renovate the property. The hotel has changed hands multiple times since. It was later named The Chancellor and is known today as Graduate Fayetteville.

In the late-2000s, Nock was part of a development group that proposed an 840-acre mixed-use development west of the Cato Springs Road exit, just off the Interstate 49 interchange in south Fayetteville.

South Pass Development Co. LLC, led by Nock, Alexander and Mitchell Massey, headed up the project. It was to include about 3,600 single-family homes, churches, a school, a 200-acre city park and about 500 acres of green space.

Chambers Bank recovered the land in August 2010. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones bought 256 acres for $7.3 million in December 2014, then donated it to the Razorback Foundation, the private fundraising arm of the University of Arkansas athletics department.

In the mid-2000s, Nock proposed a 550-home development in Greenland called Greenland Hills but the proposed subdivision was unpopular because Nock wanted to use a septic system, not city sewer.

The wastewater issue became moot, however, because the recession hit, Nock and his team floundered, and Greenland Hills wound up as a bank foreclosure.