TAMPA — David Lewalski, who operated an investment company that authorities said was actually a $30 million Ponzi scheme, has pleaded guilty to mail fraud in federal court.
Lewalski, 47, ran Botfly LLC from an office in Bayonet Point. The company promised returns of up to 10 percent a month in the foreign currency market. But in reality, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, Botfly was an investment fraud scheme that raised nearly $30 million from investors but used only about $2.6 million for trading — most of which was lost.
"Lewalski admitted that instead of trading in the foreign currency market as he promised, he used the bulk of victim investor funds to make payments to other investors in order to perpetuate the scheme and make it appear as if he was generating the promised returns," the release states.
He paid investors $14,339,887 in "returns" that were really other victim investors' funds, the release states. Lewalski also spent millions on personal luxuries including high-end real estate, private jet travel, luxury automobiles, computer equipment and jewelry.
Last year the Florida Attorney General's Office sued Lewalski and partner Jon J. Hammill of St. Petersburg to shut Botfly down, freeze its assets and return investors' money. Investors are now submitting claims to the receiver, and so far more than $5 million has been recovered or frozen and should be available to reimburse investors, the Attorney General's Office said Monday.
Hammill was indicted in March on three counts of bankruptcy fraud. His trial is set for later this month.
Lewalski faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.