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Robert Trigaux

Add yet another schemer to Florida's bulging collection of Ponzi scamsters

Update: It seems hard to even post a blog about Ponzi schemes in Florida without it becoming outdated... in hours! Here the latest from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and its July 6 charge of Ponzi scheming against Phillip Minton of Palm Beach Gardens. Never a dull moment in Florida...

Wake up and good morning. Florida has its natural wonders from gators and palmettos to... Ponzi schemers? Sure feels that way. Knock one down and up pop some more, like crab grass in a challenged lawn.

Waynemcleodponzitimesunion  That latest around the state to surface is Wayne McLeod of Jacksonville. McLeod apparently shot himself in his car in Jacksonville late last month. The Securities and Exchange Commission since charged his estate that victimized an estimated -- talk about the ultimate sense of endorsement --  260 law enforcement agents. McLeod reportedly raised at least $34 million since 1988 by luring active and retired government employees to invest in the "FEBG Bond Fund" with false promises of annual returns between eight and 10 percent. McLeod operated the fund through the Federal Employee Benefits Group Inc. (McLeod photo: Florida Times Union.)

The SEC alleges that the "FEBG Bond Fund" did not even exist. McLeod allegedly solicited his clients' investments through financial planning seminars that he presented to federal and state agencies across the country. He then used his investors' money to "pay himself" and for "lavish entertainment" and "promotional expenses to bolster his image." Here's a more complete story on McLeod.

Tony Marotta was assistant special agent in charge of five Drug Enforcement Administration offices in Ohio. He told the Jacksonville newspaper: "He was the DEA's retirement expert. How could you not trust this guy?" Here's the Jacksonville's Florida Times Union follow on how he ruined so many lives.

McLeod's folly follows in a Florida tradition of Ponzi-meisters of recent times. More have been outed in recent years, presumably because the recession has disrupted the schemers' ability to attract enough new investors' money to cover their scam. When the new money declines, the old investors can't be paid and the deal crumbles.

ScottrothsteinponzischemeLillyEchevarriaMHeraldThat was the way with former South Florida lawyer Scott Rothstein (photo, right), who last month as handed a 50-year prison sentence after he pleaded guilty to orchestrating a Ponzi scheme that defrauded $1.2 billion from investors. Rothstein confessed in January to conspiring with others to sell investors millions of dollars worth of stakes in fabricated legal settlements that he claimed his law firm had struck in employment disputes. Here are details from the Wall Street Journal. (Photo: Lilly Echevarria, Miami Herald.)

Artnadelponzibookingphotopinellas county jailAnd before Rothstein there was Art Nadel of Sarasota (photo, left), whose Ponzi moves have been chronicled in this Venture blog multiple times, most notably here (how he did it, in his own words) and here (his fear of becoming known as a "mini" Bernard Madoff). Nadel, too, is now in prison.

McLeod. Rothstein, Nadel. There are as yet unidentified Ponzi schemers operating right now in Florida but you get the idea. Rest assured they are out there wooing investors with promises of too-good-to-be true rates of return of some kind, silver-tongued devils who are too good at making you feel safe and comfy... while lifting your wallet.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist 

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:00am]


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