For the second time in as many weeks, a former National Football League player faces charges for operating a multi-million dollar real estate Ponzi scheme. Stu Voigt, 66, who previously played football for the Minnesota Vikings during the 1970s and played in three Super Bowls, was indicted on multiple criminal fraud charges along with Jeffery Gardner, 61, for the pair's involvement with Gardner's business, Hennessey Financial LLC. Voigt and Gardner each face two counts of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, four counts of mail fraud, five counts of bank fraud, and seven counts of giving false statements on a loan application. Gardner and Voigt were also charged with making monetary transactions in criminally-derived property. If convicted of all charges, each of the men could face a maximum sentence of decades in prison.
According to authorities, Voigt and Gardner solicited investors for Hennessey Financial LLC, a company operated by Gardner that touted lucrative yet safe returns through investments in commercial real estate and similar projects. In exchange for an investment, potential investors were promised potential annual returns ranging from 10% to 20%. Voigt is accused of using his position as chairman of First Commercial Bank (the "Bank") in Bloomington, Minnesota, to secure loans for Gardner without disclosing Gardner's true financial position. Investors were told in 2008 that they could invest with a new corporation in exchange for abandoning their claims related to Hennessey, when in reality the new venture was nothing more than a bank account from which Gardner paid "interest" payments to investors. In total, Gardner and Voigt raised millions of dollars from investors. Gardner was previously indicted in February 2013 on multiple fraud charges.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC") instituted proceedings involving the Bank in 2011, alleging that Voigt had committed misconduct by voting in favor of a loan and failing to disclose the extent of his involvement with borrower Hennessey and a guarantor identified as "Mr. X" who is believed to be Gardner. The FDIC alleged that Voigt took actions as an officer of a Hennessey-related company to transfer the Bank's collateral for the loan out of the reach of the Bank, including the formation of a company to take a security interest in Mr. X's assets to the Bank's detriment. These actions, alleged the FDIC, resulted in "substantial loss to the Bank and in gain to" Voigt. Voigt, while denying wrongdoing, later agreed to a banking ban and a $15,000 fine.
Voigt is the second former NFL player to be charged for involvement in a Ponzi scheme in as many weeks. Earlier this month, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil fraud charges against former Miami Dolphins player Will Allen, alleging that he and a business partner operated a $33 million Ponzi scheme touting extraordinary returns to investors through profitable loans extended to professional athletes.