A Texas man who fled to Greece after pleading guilty to a $8.6 million Ponzi scheme only to be recaptured and returned to the United States was sentenced to serve more than seventeen years in prison. Christopher Blackwell, 34, received a 210-month sentence from United States District Judge Terry R. Means. Blackwell was also ordered to pay $8.6 million in restitution to his defrauded victims.
Prosecutors allege that Blackwell, through his companies AV Bar Reg Inc. and Millers A Game LLC, claimed to have an established trading program that could guarantee investors monthly returns ranging from 25% to 30%. In attempting to bolster his credibility and reputation, Blackwell made a variety of representations concerning his academic and professional background. These claims included masters and doctoral degrees from a Spanish university and previous employment at Goldman Sachs and the Bank of Madrid. All of these claims were false.
When federal authorities began investigating, Blackwell arranged several meetings at Hooters with an undercover agent posing as a potential investor. There, Blackwell promised that an investment with him would be risk-free, and that he was able to generate such lucrative profits through “buddies that I went to school with” that worked at prestigious financial firms such as Goldman Sachs.
Blackwell was arrested in June 2011 and charged with two counts of wire fraud. After subsequently pleading guilty in July 2011, Blackwell made the decision to flee before his sentencing. He ended up at the Greek island of Carfu, where he remained until he was arrested by U.S. Homeland Security agents in April 2013. Blackwell was extradited back to the United States and was returned to Texas in November.
The sentence is notable in that it is towards the high-range of sentences for the amount of losses at issue. Indeed, of the nearly 400 sentences handed down to Ponzi schemers from 2008 to 2013 as featured in the Ponzi Database, the average and median sentence for all Ponzi schemes was 114 months and 110 months, respectively. It is likely that Blackwell's decision to flee may have played a part in the increased sentence.