The Idaho Statesman is reporting that a Kooskia man was sentenced to four years in federal prison for fraud. The ghost of Charles Ponzi – the father of all Ponzi schemes – rides again into the court room only to meet up with Judge Ed Lodge. This guy stole $1.6 million from "investors" who saw big returns in their future. In addition to that prison adventure, Steven Tennies will have to repay the money. That is almost never what really happens because it is so difficult to save $1.6 million on that "after prison" employment opportunity. "Would you like fries with that sir?"
Here’s the deal with Ponzi schemes – your investment money becomes the "personal" money of the promoter. They almost always end up with the money you thought was going to be invested. Your returns come at the price of those who follow you. The promoter uses their money to pay you a little interest and then takes the rest of the money to spend on his own life.
But wait – there is more. If you were lucky enough to pocket those early returns and got your money back, the government may attempt to "claw back" that money you received because it was stolen from some later "investor." Check out what is happening to the early Madoff "investors" who received their money and big returns. The government has taken the position that they pocketed millions and billions from others, which they must now return.
So another Ponzi defendant falls. There will be more – and some of you may find yourself tempted to "invest" with someone promising you big interest each month. As they used to say in that old cop show Hill Street Blues – "be careful out there folks." If it sounds too good to be true, Charles Ponzi may be knocking at your door.