Colleyville, Texas Man Sentenced to 210 Months in Federal Prison for Running Ponzi Scheme That Caused More Than $8 Million in Losses to Investors
Defendant Was on the Lam for Nearly Two Years
Before He Was Apprehended in Greece and Extradited to U.S.
FORT WORTH, Texas — Christopher Blackwell, 34, who pleaded guilty almost three years ago to running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded dozens of investors of millions of dollars, fled the country while he was awaiting sentencing, and was recently apprehended and extradited to the U.S., was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Terry R. Means to 210 months in federal prison and ordered to pay approximately $8.6 million in restitution.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña, of the Northern District of Texas, said, “I commend the tremendous coordination and efforts of an international law enforcement team, including Homeland Security Investigations, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Marshals Service, Interpol and the Greek authorities that located this fugitive and returned him to the U.S. to face justice.”
“After pleading guilty to his Ponzi scheme that cheated dozens of people out of more than $8 million, Mr. Blackwell hoped that he could hide from punishment by fleeing to Greece,” said David M. Marwell, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Dallas. “However, by working closely with our worldwide HSI attaché offices, and the Hellenic National Police, we used the ‘long arm of the law’ to bring Mr. Blackwell to justice.”
Acting U.S. Marshal Benjamin E. Kates of the Northern District of Texas, said, “Bringing Christopher Blackwell to justice is an excellent example of law enforcement cooperation.”
Following his plea in July 2011, Blackwell, who at the time was a Colleyville, Texas, resident, absconded to Greece. On April 16, 2013, he was arrested in the island of Corfu in Western Greece by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Athens and the Hellenic National Police. On November 11, 2013, Blackwell was extradited from Greece by the U.S. Marshals Service to the Northern District of Texas.
Blackwell operated the Ponzi scheme, which caused approximately $8.6 million in losses to investors, from approximately January 2007 to mid-June 2011, when he was arrested in Phoenix on charges outlined in a criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas. At yesterday’s sentencing hearing, a special agent with HSI testified about the severe financial impact of the fraud on the lives of the dozens of victims.
According to the factual resume filed in the case, Blackwell told potential investors that their money would be invested in specific business ventures. However, when he received money from them, he did not invest those funds, but instead used the majority of the money for his own personal benefit. Blackwell also occasionally used some of the funds received from new investors to make small payments to earlier investors. These payments were designed to convince investors that their money was generating a profit. Not all investors received payments from Blackwell, and many lost all of the money they invested. Blackwell recruited investors from a variety of geographic areas.
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. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
The investigation was led by HSI.
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