Pa. Fund Manager Charged In Ponzi Scheme

Jan 22 2009 | 12:26am ET

In these busy times for battling Ponzi schemes, the federal prosecutors have charged a Philadelphia-area fund manager with defrauding investors of $50 million.

The criminal mail fraud charges against Joseph Forte follow similar charges levied by the Commodities Future Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission last month. According to the regulators, Forte approached federal authorities in December as his alleged scam fell apart and confessed.

Prosecutors say Forte ran his scheme between 1996 and last year, lying to his roughly 80 investors about the fund’s supposedly double-digit returns. In fact, the fund posted millions in losses on the little trading Forte did, according to prosecutors. Forte also allegedly lied to investors about the size of the fund, claiming more than $154 million in assets when his trading account had less than $150,000 in it.

“Ponzi schemes such as this exploit the trust and hopes of investors,” acting U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid said. “In these troubled economic times, the devastation caused to the victims cannot be overstated.”

In an affidavit filed with the charges, U.S. Postal Inspector George Clark said that Forte admitted he “falsely reported investment returns of up to 38 percent when, in fact, he regularly lost money in his futures trading.”

If convicted, Forte faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as restitution to his victims.

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