Georgia Couple Sentenced for Running a “Ponzi” Scheme that Cost Investors $18 Million
ATLANTA, GA - GEOFFREY A. GISH, 57, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, and MYRA J. ETTENBOROUGH, 56, of Roswell, Georgia, were sentenced to prison late today by United States District Judge Charles A. Pannell, Jr. on charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and wire fraud.
“These defendants tricked investors into handing over millions of dollars with promises of high yield trading programs that supposedly offered safety, security and extraordinarily high returns,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “These well-known schemes are all too common, and investors should be skeptical of offers that sound too good to be true. As long as these scams exist, we will continue to use every resource to bring thieves like these to justice.”
Brian D. Lamkin, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, said, “The defendants in this case defrauded investors over numerous years while eluding State investigators by providing false information. Mr. Gish and Ms. Ettenborough exhibited total disregard for their victim investors while displaying an almost limitless level of personal greed. They will now be held accountable for their actions.”
GISH was sentenced to 20 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $17,245,275.
ETTENBOROUGH was sentenced to 7 years in prison to be followed by 3 years of supervised release, and also and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $17,245,275. Both were convicted of the charges on September 23, 2011, after a trial which lasted over two weeks.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Beginning in 2004 and continuing to May 17, 2006, GISH and ETTENBOROUGH defrauded investment clients of “Weston Rutledge,” an investment firm, by misrepresenting the ways in which they used investor monies and the purported earnings from those monies. During this period, GISH and ETTENBOROUGH raised approximately $29 million from their clients for investment in three pooled funds. The investors were promised guaranteed returns of as much as 15% per quarter, and regular, monthly statements that GISH and ETTENBOROUGH caused Weston Rutledge to send to the investors, purported to show these high returns.
Investors in the largest pooled fund, which supposedly involved “high yield trading programs” between top-tier banks, also were promised that their money was safe and kept in a “blocked” or reserve account.
In reality, GISH and ETTENBOROUGH used the monies raised from investors for a variety of purposes that were different than the purposes and uses represented to investors. None of these uses returned any principal, earnings, or profits to Weston Rutledge consistent with and supporting the representations that GISH and ETTENBOROUGH made to investors about the earnings and profits generated with their funds. Some investors who requested payment of the earnings reflected on their investment statements were paid from monies raised from other investors, which is a common technique in a Ponzi-type investment fraud scheme.
During the course of their scheme, GISH and ETTENBOROUGH were advised on several occasions that they were engaged in or using investor monies for fraudulent activity. In particular, GISH and ETTENBOROUGH were advised that the “high yield trading programs” were fraudulent, although they ignored this advice and continued to promise investors that their money was safe and being used for such programs. In 2005 and 2006, the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office investigated GISH and his company in connection with the three pooled funds being offered to investors, and whether GISH was violating an earlier state order to cease and desist from acting as an unregistered investment advisor. In response to the Secretary of State’s subpoenas and requests for information, GISH and ETTENBOROUGH provided false and misleading information in an attempt to conceal their scheme and keep it going.
GISH and ETTENBOROUGH’s scheme did not come to an end until May 2006, when the United States Securities and Exchange Commission obtained an order placing Weston Rutledge and the three pooled investment funds into receivership. Of the $29 million that had been raised from investors, GISH and ETTENBOROUGH had used $11 million to pay investors who requested withdrawals or payment of the supposed earnings that their investments were making. The remaining $18 million was gone, used for a variety of purposes that were inconsistent with the promises that GISH and ETTENBOROUGH had made to investors. This included approximately $1.2 million that went to GISH and/or his benefit, including to purchase a house in his name and for the purchase and upkeep of multiple automobiles.
This case was investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorneys Douglas W. Gilfillan and Christopher C. Bly prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact Sally Q. Yates, United States Attorney, or Charysse L. Alexander, Executive Assistant United States Attorney, through Patrick Crosby, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Attorney's Office, at (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the HomePage for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia is www.justice.gov/usao/gan.