Man faces possible 12-year sentence for $6M Ponzi scheme

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) — A former life insurance agent from Poway is slated to be sentenced to a dozen years in state prison next month for orchestrating a $6 million Ponzi scheme that scammed nearly 50 victims, many of them senior citizens, the California Department of Insurance announced Wednesday.

Christopher Dougherty, 47, pleaded guilty last week to securities fraud and grand theft charges for masterminding the scam, in which he offered victims investment opportunities in companies he owned, then used some of their funds for his personal expenses like home remodeling, travel and college tuition, according to the Department of Insurance.

Dougherty also used some of the victims’ money to pay back other investors “in classic Ponzi fashion,” according to the Department of Insurance. When he was no longer able to pay his investors back, “the Ponzi scheme collapsed.”

More than half of Dougherty’s victims were 65 years of age or older, according to prosecutors.

Among the investments Dougherty touted to his victims was a 100-acre organic cattle ranch and marijuana growing project in Alpine that didn’t generate any profits for investors.

Dougherty filed for bankruptcy in October 2018.

“Dougherty ruthlessly took advantage of his clients’ trust in order to steal their life savings, causing unfathomable harm,” state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said. “Thanks to the great work by Department of Insurance investigators and the San Diego (County) District Attorney’s Office, his conviction will bring some level of justice to victims and their families.”

Dougherty was charged last April by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office and has been in custody since then.

Sentencing is slated for April 24.

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