SAN DIEGO -- A Poway man faces criminal charges after an investigation uncovered he scammed dozens of San Diegans out of nearly $8 million, officials said.
Christopher Dougherty, 46, scammed at least 31 families, mostly senior citizens over a 5-year period, according to The San Diego County District Attorney's office. Another 26 victims will likely be added to the case.
Dougherty was arrested Thursday and was charged on multiple counts including grand theft, fraud and financial elder abuse.
Many victims met Dougherty when he worked as an investment advisor for employees at school districts throughout San Diego County including Sweetwater Union High School District, Imperial United School District and El Centro Elementary School District, the DA's office said.
“This was a classic Ponzi scheme where the defendant stole millions of dollars from trusting families and senior citizens. These aren’t rich investors, they’re people who worked hard and trusted their life savings with someone who preyed on their vulnerabilities,” said District Attorney Summer Stephan said. “I’m very proud of the investigative work done by the DA’s Insurance Fraud Unit and our law enforcement partners to bring justice to dozens of victims preyed upon by a heartless con man.”
“Be careful out there and really do your homework and due diligence before you take your hard-earned money and invest it with people, no matter how charming they might be," San Diego County Sheriff William Gore told FOX 5.
Gore said there could be dozens of other victims and encourages them to come forward.
Dougherty plead not guilty to more than 80 felony counts during his arraignment Friday.
His bail was set at $5 million. He faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted.