Hedge Fund Fraudster Gets 20 Years

Dec 13 2011 | 12:59pm ET

A federal judge in Florida has sent an admitted hedge fund fraudster to 20 years in prison.

James Risher pleaded guilty to mail fraud, money laundering and illegal monetary transaction charges in September. Prosecutors say he stole more than $17 million from more than 20 people, many retired teachers and police officers from central Florida's Polk County, as part of a Ponzi scheme that began in 2007.

Risher, 61, "would rather steal something from you than have you give it to him," U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday said.

Several victims asked Merryday for a harsh sentence, noting that the Ponzi scheme is not Risher's first brush with the law. Indeed, in the 1990s he pleaded guilty, on two occasions, first to theft and then to fraud, serving three years in prison on the latter.

Merryday also ordered Risher to pay $17.8 million in restitution.

Risher apologized, in a sense, to his victims, accepting "full responsibility" with the caveat that he "was blinded by my own perception of how good I was or how smart I was."

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