Unholy Hedge Fund Scammer Gets 24 Years

Sep 8 2008 | 10:01am ET

The alleged mastermind of a hedge fund scam that defrauded churchgoers of some $7.5 million will have a long time to think about his sins.

Hamilton Bird, who prosecutors painted as the mastermind of Colorado-based XL Capital Partners, was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Friday. The firm’s Vision Fund raised about $24 million, much of it from members of the evangelical church led by one of Bird’s partners, overcharging investors to the tune of about $3 million and spending some of the rest on a private jet and home improvements.

Bird pleaded guilty to securities fraud and theft in March. In addition to scamming his investors out of their money, he also hid two prior criminal convictions and a 1991 bankruptcy declaration.

“The only thing that will stop him from taking people’s money, from trading it, losing it and stealing it, is a lengthy stay in the Department of Corrections,” Jean Woodford of the Colorado Attorney General’s office said.

Bird’s co-conspirators, David Newton and Douglas Scott, the former pastor, were sentenced to 15 years probation for their role in the fraud.

Many of Bird’s victims were in the courtroom for sentencing. Few turned the other cheek.

“In my dealings with him, he professed that Jesus Christ was the lord of his life,” Terry Canipe, who argued that Bird should face the biblically-prescribed punishment of four-times restitution, said. “If that’s his declaration, then I think this should be taken into consideration.”

“God will not be mocked, and I hope the court will not be mocked as well,” another said.

Speaking for himself, Bird gave something approaching an apology.

The legal “system has not allowed me to ask for forgiveness,” he told the court. “I couldn’t express remorse, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have remorse. I live with it daily.”

Complaining that the “press has painted me as a monster,” Bird protested.

“I’m not a monster.”

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