COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – An Alabama business owner is on his way to federal prison after pleading guilty wire fraud in a U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Georgia.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Matthew Hinkle, age 49 pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and could face up to 20 years in prison after misleading investors and his business partners at the Title Wave Title Pawn, a company in which he was a minority co-owner and president.

Officials from the DOJ say that Hinkle, in his role at Title Wave Title Pawn, had multiple business locations across Georgia and Alabama, including Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City and Auburn, Ala. While there, Hinkle repeatedly used company funds for personal expenses.

Prosecutors say he used the funds to pay auto loans, property taxes, retail purchases, and more between January 2014 to October 2017.

“Acts of fraud cause grave harm to their victims many who struggle to recover from the financial losses. Fraud is a major crime and is taken seriously in the Middle District of Georgia. We will investigate and prosecute those found using illegal business practices to deceive people,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Peter Leary.

While repeatedly taking more and more money and investment contributions from business partners and investors, Hinkle told his associates he was expanding the business.

Hinkle, as a part-owner in the business, provided false and misleading information to his business partners, investors, and the company accountant about the financial health of the business, according to the DOJ. They say Hinkle moved company funds between accounts in order to keep the business going.

In 2017, Hinkle’s partners discovered the business was on the verge of collapse.

When his partners asked him about the funds, Hinkle admitted they were running out of money, but couldn’t explain why they were running short. Then, he left the company and could not be reached by any of his business partners.

“Hinkle deceived his business partners and investors who placed their trust in him only to lose their company and investments,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “He will now spend time in prison for choosing his own greed over the company’s trust.”

Now that Hinkle has pleaded guilty to wire fraud, he faces a prison term and a potential fine of $250,000. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia says that he could also have to pay restitution up to $522,642.22.

Hinkle is scheduled to be sentenced on April 13, 2021. He faces a maximum fine of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. There is no parole in the federal system