Former financial advisor Dawn Bennett was convicted in a federal court in Maryland of charges she defrauded investors out of millions of dollars.
According to reports from The Baltimore Sun, a federal jury deliberated for roughly four hours over two days before convicting Bennett of all 17 counts in her indictment, including charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud.
According to InvestmentNews, Bennett faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for wire fraud conspiracy and for each of nine counts of wire fraud; a maximum of five years for securities fraud conspiracy; a maximum of 20 years for each of four counts of securities fraud; and a maximum of 30 years each for bank fraud and for false statements on a loan application.
The judge did not immediately set a sentencing date, the Sun reports.
Bennett, the host of the weekly radio program “Financial Myth Busting with Dawn Bennett” on Sunday mornings, used money that people had invested in her luxury sportswear company to finance her lifestyle, including six-figure expenditures on astrological gems, and cosmetic medical procedures.
She also used some of these funds to pay more than $800,000 for prayers by Hindu priests in India to ward off federal investigators.
“Jurors heard testimony that Bennett paid a man in Washington state to arrange for Hindu priests to pray for her while her business was collapsing and she faced a Ponzi scheme investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,” The Sun reports.
According to reports, an FBI affidavit that accompanied her arrest last year shows that FBI agents also found evidence in Bennett’s home that she tried to silence SEC investigators by casting “hoodoo” spells.
The Sun reports that agents found instructions for placing people under a “Beef Tongue Shut Up Hoodoo Spell” and found the initials of SEC attorneys written on the lids of Mason jars stored in Bennett’s freezers.
The FBI started investigating Bennett in 2015 after the SEC accused her of defrauding investors by “grossly inflating” the amount of assets she managed on her radio talk show and overhyping the returns on her clients’ investments.
Then, in 2017, the SEC charged Bennett for defrauding investors in a promissory note scheme and then spending their money on herself or for Ponzi-like payments, which coincided with criminal charges in a parallel case.
According to the SEC and other reports, Bennett used promissory notes to raise more than $20 million from at least 46 investors in her company, DJBennett.com, promising them a 15% return on their investment.
Many of the investors lost their life savings or retirement funds when they gave their money to Bennett, according to reports.
Bennett racked up an extensive regulatory record over her 28-year career with five firms.
FINRA Bars Broker for an Unsuitable Recommendation Resulting in Hefty Commissions
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority barred Bernard McGee, a broker who last worked at Independent Financial Group, from association with any FINRA member.
The regulator also ordered McGee to pay $237,643, plus interest, in restitution to a customer.
According to FINRA’s report of Disciplinary and Other FINRA Actions for October, McGee willfully failed to inform a customer of the more than $59,000 in commissions that he received in connection with the customer’s purchase of a charitable gift annuity.
The findings stated that McGee made an unsuitable recommendation to the customer when he proposed the customer surrender variable annuities and purchase the charitable gift annuity.