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Misdeeds and mistletoe

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A Chicago accountant will be spending the next 23 years behind bars for perpetrating a Ponzi scheme on hundreds of working-class Italian-Americans. The man spent years building the trust of retirees, widows, and immigrants in order to sell them phony promissory notes. According to authorities, the accountant raised $77 million from 473 investors. Early entrants received $59 million in interest payments, but later investors lost $31.6 million. The accountant, once a respected member of the Italian community, has become an object of scorn. “He said all the right things and even kissed us each and every time he saw us,” said one victim. “It was the kiss of death.”

A Panama City, Florida investment advisor has been sentenced to 12 years in prison, two years of house arrest, and eight years of probation in connection with scams he perpetrated on state seniors. According to authorities, the advisor pleaded guilty to 259 felony counts, including securities fraud, sale of unregistered securities, theft from the elderly, and operating a scheme to defraud. Apparently, the advisor persuaded 92 investors to participate in various “savings clubs” which turned out to be nothing more than Ponzi schemes. After the advisor does his time, he will be required to make full restitution to all his victims.

A Hartford, CT businessman will be spending 15 years in prison for orchestrating a multimillion swindle that cost many victims their homes and life’s savings. Federal prosecutors said the man swindled more than 350 investors out of more than $100 million in a 12-year Ponzi scheme involving phony investments in diamonds and distressed-business assets. Early investors received returns approaching 20 percent quarterly, leading them to invest even more money and to recruit friends and family into the deals. However, the scheme unraveled when the businessman could no longer generate new money to pay off prior investors.

Harry Lew is the communications and content director for the National Ethics Bureau.


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