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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving > Donor Advised Funds

Dawn Bennett Appeals 20-Year Prison Sentence

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Dawn Bennett, the former advisor who was sentenced on July 31 to 20 years in prison for defrauding retirees out of $20 million, is appealing her conviction.

Notice was given to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Aug. 16 that Bennett would appeal the decision by District Judge Paula Xinis to sentence her to prison and pay restitution of $14.5 million and forfeiture of $14.3 million.

On Aug. 20, Bennett’s former attorneys Jonathan Jeffress and William Zapf issued a petition to the court withdrawing themselves from representing her.

The 4th Circuit advised Bennett Thursday to retain counsel for her appeal.

Bennett, 56, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, faced 17 federal charges including conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud and making false statements on a loan application.

According to the ruling, between December 2014 and April 2017, Bennett solicited individuals to invest money in her internet clothing business, offering an annual interest rate of 15% via convertible or promissory notes.

The $20 million she secured from 46 investors, mainly retirees, was used to fund such things as a luxury suite at a football stadium; to pay a website operator to arrange for priests in India to perform religious ceremonies to ward off federal investigators; to purchase astrological gems; and for cosmetic medical procedures.

“In order to entice individuals to invest, Bennett made false and misleading statements, including: the risks of investing in DJB Holdings; how investors’ funds would be used; and that the loans were liquid and guaranteed by DJB Holdings’ inventory and assets, and by Bennett herself,” the ruling states.

Witnesses testified that Bennett concealed the true financial condition of her companies from investors.

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