A New York man was sentenced to an eight-year prison term for participating in a Ponzi scheme that duped nearly 100 victims out of over $6 million. Ian Campbell Gent, 70, faced up to 17.5 years under federal sentencing guidelines, but Chief United States District Judge William R. Skretny made a downward departure from those guidelines in handing down his sentence. In doing so, Judge Skretny also rejected Gent's claims that he was without blame, observing that Gent's action were "motivated by greed, pure and simple." The mastermind of the scheme, Guy Gane, plead guilty and received a 13-year sentence in September 2011.
According to authorities, Gane hired Gent to work at his firm, Watermark M-One Financial Services ("Watermark"), where he told potential clients he could promise 10% annual returns through investments in waterfront real estate. Investors were provided with 'debentures' evidencing their investment. However, Gane made no such investments, and instead used investor funds for a variety of unauthorized uses that included Ponzi-style payments to existing investors, personal and business expenses, and cash advances to his children.
While Gane pleaded guilty, Gent and another Watermark employee, James Lagona, chose to stand trial. That strategy backfired, as each was convicted by a federal jury on charges of conspiracy and money laundering in February 2011. Recently, while awaiting sentencing, Lagona was arrested on charges that he sought to influence prosecutor William Hochul by approaching Hochul's wife, a New York Congresswoman who was in the middle of a tight re-election campaign. Lagona purportedly claimed that he would drum up support for Congresswoman Hochul if her husband would agree to drop the case against him (although Lagona had already been convicted). FBI agents were notified, and subsequently arrested Lagona.