A now-disbarred Minnesota attorney who swindled victims out of more than $4 million in an elaborate Ponzi scheme was sentenced to serve 10 years in federal prison. Mark Holt, 45, received the sentence from U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson as more than a dozen of his victims looked on, some of whom addressed both Holt and the Court in arguing for the maximum sentence. Holt had previously pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum potential 20-year prison sentence.
Beginning in 2005, Holt used his affiliation with a Minnesota registered broker-dealer, Harbor Planning Investment Group ("Harbor Planning"), to solicit potential investors with the promise of steady returns through safe long-term investments. Investors, many of whom were retired, were provided with periodic payments that purportedly represented returns on their investment, as well as investment statements showing increases in their accounts. In total, Holt raised at least $4 million from dozens of investors.
However, Holt failed to invest a majority of the funds he received from investors, instead using investor funds to make Ponzi-like payments and to sustain his lavish lifestyle. Authorities alleged that Holt misappropriated at least $2 million through the formation of various entities each containing "Harbor" in their business name so as to facilitate the siphoning of investor funds from Harbor Planning. Holt allegedly spent investor funds on a variety of personal expenses, including $14,000 on travel, $25,000 in gym and club dues, $16,000 on designer clothes, and $5,000 at an exotic dance club.
Holt was also recently fined $300,000 by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.