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Two Plymouth Men Sentenced in Ponzi Scheme

A federal judge sentenced three men connected to a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

A federal judge sentenced three people in connection with a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Two of the three men sentenced in this case are from Plymouth.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, a Ponzi Scheme orchestrated by Trevor Cook bilked investors out of millions of dollars. In August 2010, Cook was sentenced to 300 months in federal prison for his role in the scam.

Last Thursday, Jason Bo-Alan Beckman, age 43, of Plymouth, was sentenced to 360 months in federal prison, on 17 counts of wire and mail fraud, two counts of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, four counts of money laundering, two counts of filing a false tax return, and one count of tax evasion.

Christopher Pettengill, 56, who is also from Plymouth, was sentenced to 90 months in federal prison on one count of securities fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and one count of money laundering. Gerald Joseph Durand, 61, of Faribault, also was sentenced.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Judge Davis called Beckman a central figure in the fraud scheme, adding that the harm he caused was worse than using a gun because he “used the English language to violate so many.” Beckman and his co-conspirators defrauded more than 725 people during the course of their fraud scheme.

According to the news release, the defendants encouraged people to invest in a foreign currency trading program that promised double-digit returns. While some money was invested in this program, most was placed in high-risk investments. According to the Department of Justice, the defendants created statements and sent them to investors making it look like accounts were doing well. The StarTribune spoke with some of the victims.

Between 2005 and July 2009, the defendants, Cook, and others secured approximately $194 million in investments for the currency program, according to the Department of Justice. Of that amount, only about $109 million was actually sent to currency trading firms. About $52 million was paid to investors in the form of lulling payments, and approximately $30 million was diverted to fund the business and personal expenses of the defendants, Cook, and others.

Following the sentencings, U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said, “We are very pleased with today’s sentences. These are the types of cases this office will vigorously pursue—cases where defendants prey on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, or use special relationships, like those established through faith communities, to commit financial fraud that devastates thousands of people, crushing their dreams of retirement or college for their children.”

(To read the entire press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, click the images under the gavel.)

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