WASHINGTON DEPOT WOMAN WHO RAN $2 MILLION PONZI SCHEME SENTENCED TO EIGHT YEARS IN FEDERAL PRISON
David B. Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that ROBIN BRUHJELL BRASS, 55, of Washington Depot, was sentenced today by United States District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford to 96 months of imprisonment (an upward departure over the advisory Sentencing Guidelines range), followed by three years of supervised release, for operating a long-running Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of approximately $2 million. BRASS has been detained since her arrest on November 15, 2011.
“This defendant preyed upon the elderly and other vulnerable people, deceived them into believing their investments with her were safe, insured and guaranteed, and then stole almost two million dollars of their hard-earned savings,” stated U.S. Attorney Fein. “Hopefully, this lengthy sentence will serve as a warning to all would-be fraudsters and a reminder to the investing public to be vigilant before entrusting their life savings to so-called investment advisors. You should research your investment advisors and verify the information you are provided. I commend Connecticut’s Department of Banking for initiating this investigation, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, SIGTARP and FBI for pursuing it thoroughly to secure justice. I applaud the victims who appeared in court today and told the Court about the fraud and the painful ways in which it has affected their lives.”
According to court documents and statements made in court, BRASS represented herself as a successful investment advisor and solicited funds from investors, including investors who were elderly and in a vulnerable physical condition. BRASS told some potential investors that their money would be safe if invested with her because she had a formula for investing that ensured against loss and guaranteed a good return on investment. She also told some investors that her investment funds were federally insured and that she would personally guarantee investments in the fund with her own substantial personal assets. As part of the scheme, BRASS reassured some of her investors by sending fraudulent account statements to them purporting to represent their account balances and that their investments were performing well. BRASS told some investors that she could not repay them because the State of Connecticut had “frozen” her accounts. These statements were false.
BRASS failed to invest all of the funds entrusted with her and used some of the money to pay personal expenses for herself and her family, such as credit card bills, college tuition bills, home furnishings and clothing, and to make “lulling” payments to previous investors. BRASS also used investors’ money to make loan payments to a bank that received funds though the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
The investigation revealed that BRASS operated this Ponzi scheme and defrauded individuals, many of them elderly, of at least $1.9 million over seven years. At sentencing today, the court found that BRASS abused her victims’ trust and that BRASS obstructed justice by trying to silence her victims by telling them that their funds were “frozen” and that if they came forward they might never see their money.
Six victims spoke at today’s sentencing. One victim told the Court that she was recovering from a near-catastrophic car accident when BRASS approached her about investing her insurance settlement money with her. BRASS took the insurance proceeds from the victim on the day they were received and diverted them to her own use. As a result, the victim, who is battling cancer, told the Court that she has been forced to forego physical therapy and other recommended medical treatments that she now cannot afford. Another victim, now 92-years-old, told the Court that BRASS stole more than $600,000 of her money over the course of seven years, some of it taken when BRASS already knew that she was the subject of state and federal investigations.
A hearing to determine restitution will be scheduled.
On April 25, 2012, BRASS pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud.
This matter was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service,the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State of Connecticut Department of Banking. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan L. Wines.
In December 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and several law enforcement and regulatory partners announced the formation of the Connecticut Securities, Commodities and Investor Fraud Task Force, which is investigating matters relating to insider trading, market manipulation, Ponzi schemes, investor fraud, financial statement fraud, violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and embezzlement. The Task Force includes representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office; Federal Bureau of Investigation; Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation; U.S. Secret Service; U.S. Postal Inspection Service; U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section and Antitrust Division; U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC); Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP); Office of the Chief State’s Attorney; State of Connecticut Department of Banking; Greenwich Police Department and Stamford Police Department.
Citizens are encouraged to report any financial fraud schemes by calling, toll free, 855-236-9740, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants.
To report financial fraud crimes, and to learn more about the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, please visit www.stopfraud.gov.
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