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Ponzi scam artist sentenced to 20 years

By: Penne Usher, Telegraph Correspondent
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A Folsom man has been sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison and ordered to pay more than $12 million in restitution for running a Ponzi scheme that financially devastated at least 80 victims. Stefan A. Wilson, 45, who also went by the name Stephan K. Wilson, pleaded guilty March 17 to wire fraud and filing a false income tax return. He was indicted by a federal grand jury March 13, 2008. Wilson solicited money from investors with the promise of an 18 to 24 percent return on their money, said Steve Lapham, assistant United States attorney. “Most of his victims were not wealthy and couldn’t come up with the $100,000 minimum investment required to invest in the Christians in Crisis Investment Fund,” Lapham said. Armed with this knowledge, Wilson reportedly encouraged his “investors” to refinance their homes, draw on their savings or even dip into their 401(k) accounts. “As a result many of the victims have lost their homes and those close to retirement have been completely wiped out," Lapham said in a released statement along with co-counsel Russel Carlberg. “The defendant’s conduct was beyond reprehensible,” said U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown. “He manipulated innocent investors and destroyed lives. The only thing Stefan Wilson actually earned in this scheme was the almost 20 years in federal prison the court imposed.” Wilson promised high rates of return on his client’s investments, however, the investment fund did poorly. Between February 2006 and February 2008 Wilson reportedly collected at least $13 million from investors and placed about $6.5 million into a brokerage account, which he reportedly used to buy and sell stock. He lost almost all the funds. “The funds that were not deposited in the brokerage account were left in a bank account and used by Wilson to pay for his lavish lifestyle,” according to the statement. He used this money on a $400,000 down payment on his personal residence in Folsom, an $118,000 down payment on a Lamborghini, and a $90,000 down payment on a boat. In addition to his swindling, Wilson failed to report his income on his 2006 tax return. Judge Lawrence Karlton, who sentenced Wilson, said that the seriousness of the defendant's conduct combined with his prior state conviction for identity theft were factors in the hefty prison term.