Judge Accepts Guilty Plea in Florida Ponzi Scheme

A Florida federal judge agreed to accept a plea agreement reached between authorities and a man accused of orchestrating a $22 million Ponzi scheme whose victims included retired teachers and county employees in Polk County, Florida.  As previously covered by Ponzitracker, James David Risher, 61, had earlier pled guilty to single counts of mail fraud, money laundering, and engaging in an illegal monetary transaction.  

From early 2007 until July 2010, Risher solicited funds from individuals for investment in a private equity fund known by several names, including Safe Harbor Private Equity Fund, Managed Capital Fund, and Preservation of Principal Fund. The fund was advertised as “an investment vehicle that would allow investors to capitalize from both bull and bear markets.”  Potential investors were provided with offering materials that contained numerous misrepresentations, including a successful history of annual returns for the fund ranging from 14% to more than 124% since 2000.   To convince investors the operation was legitimate, fictitious account statements were generated showing purported quarterly returns ranging from 2.28% to 5.64%.   While investors were sold shares representing interests in the fund, no registration statement was filed or in effect with the SEC as required under federal securities law. Instead, the operation was a Ponzi scheme that used new investor contributions to sustain the fraudulent scheme.

The charges in the plea agreement carry a maximum sentence of fifty years in federal prison, although federal sentencing guidelines will likely recommend a lower range.   A sentencing date has not yet been set.

A copy of the Criminal Complaint filed against Risher is here.

A copy of Risher's Plea Agreement is here.