Jury clears former NFL player and co-CEO of fraudulent devicemaker on most serious charges

Willie Gault--Courtesy of Heart Tronics

A jury just cleared a retired, Super Bowl winning wide receiver on charges of fraud related to a plan to pump up the stock of Heart Tronics, a cardiology device company.

The defendant, Willie Gault, was found guilty of three minor changes such as filing false certifications about the company's financial statements during his tenure as co-CEO, according to Reuters.

In 2013, outside counsel to Heart Tronics, Mitchell Stein, was convicted of securities fraud and sentenced to 17 years in prison. The federal Securities and Exchange Commission says Stein made false sales orders in order to inflate the company's stock. The SEC argued that Gault and former co-CEO, J. Rowland Perkins II, did not protect shareholders by failing to question Stein's actions, according to Reuters.

"Mr. Gault entered the courtroom today with the shroud of serious securities fraud violations hanging over his head, and he exited the courtroom cleared of any serious misconduct and with the equivalent of a securities parking ticket," said his attorney, George Newhouse Jr., following the trial, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, although Gault was cleared of the most serious charges, the SEC was apparently pleased with the verdict, and said, "As proved at trial, as CEO of a public company, Willie Gault filed false certifications with the SEC and knowingly circumvented the company's internal controls," Reuters reports.

Heart Tronics has a website, which appears outdated. It is listed as trading on the over-the-counter markets by Reuters and Bloomberg, although the stock is virtually worthless.

- read the Reuters article