Ponzi Promoter's Wife Gets Prison For Cash Withdrawals

A federal judge ordered a Florida woman to spend a year and a day in federal prison for her role in helping her husband withdraw and hide more than $300,000 before a bankruptcy filing.  Lorie Ann Williams, 49, received the sentence after previously pleading guilty to evading bank reporting requirements by structuring more than 30 withdrawals for $9,500 - under the $10,000 currency reporting threshold. Williams could have faced up to two years in prison. 

Williams' husband, Sydney "Jack" Williams, was the top promoter of the massive Ponzi scheme operated by Nevin Shapiro that raised more than $900 million from investors who thought they were profiting from a wholesale grocery business.  Mr. Williams recruited over 60 victims to Shapiro's scheme who collectively invested more than $300 million.  While those investors ultimately suffered losses of nearly $40 million, Mr. Williams profited handsomely by pocketing $18 million in commissions.  He was later indicted on tax fraud charges and received a prison sentence of one year and one day. 

While Sydney Williams never faced criminal charges stemming for any role in Shapiro's fraud, he was the target of lawsuits by those investors who he had convinced to trust their money to Shapiro.  During 2009, Sydney Williams began moving money into his wife's name.  Then, from early March 2010 to late April 2010, his wife began making almost daily withdrawals of $9,500.  In total, Ms. Williams made 35 withdrawals of approximately $332,500, with her husband accompanying her on several occasions.  At the same time, the couple leased a safe deposit bank from a local branch.  Approximately six months later, Sydney Williams filed bankruptcy and failed to list the safe deposit box that he and his wife had opened. 

The couple was subsequently indicted, with both spouses charged with conspiracy to evade transaction reporting requirements and structuring withdrawals.  Sydney Williams was also charged with concealing property belonging to his bankruptcy estate and making a false declaration in connection with his bankruptcy schedules that he signed under oath.  The charge of structuring makes it illegal to make withdrawals of funds in a pattern designed to avoid the filing of currency transaction reports required under the Bank Secrecy Act.  Banks are required to submit currency transaction reports both when a deposit or withdrawal totals $10,000 as well as when there is evidence of intent to avoid a transaction at or above that $10,000 threshold. 

Sydney Williams entered a guilty plea in November 2015 and is scheduled to be sentenced in the near future.  He faces up to five years in prison.