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Man charged with running $4 million Ponzi scheme

Kelly Wiese//January 28, 2011

Man charged with running $4 million Ponzi scheme

Kelly Wiese//January 28, 2011

A man tracked down and arrested in Thailand faces charges of operating a $4 million Ponzi scheme, federal prosecutors say.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern Missouri alleges that Richard Saunders, formerly of St. Louis County, ran a Ponzi investment scheme, in which investors are paid off using other investors’ money rather than actual returns.  Prosecutors say he promised people guaranteed returns of as much as 20 percent by investing in supposedly low-risk offshore annuities.

Between November 2004 and January 2008, prosecutors allege Saunders spent, paid and diverted more than $1.3 million in investor funds, including for personal use. Some money was allegedly transferred overseas. In 2008, prosecutors say he fled the United States. Authorities recently found and arrested him in Thailand, and he was taken into U.S. custody yesterday.

Prosecutors say Saunders operated Advisors Capital Holdings Inc. in St. Louis County, and also had ties to other businesses.

Prosecutors also allege that Saunders, a former Internal Revenue Service employee, tried to avoid paying income taxes for 1992 through 1997.

Saunders was indicted last July on several felony counts of wire fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. The indictment was sealed until Saunders’ arrest.

If convicted, the potential sentence for each count of wire fraud, the most serious of the charges, is up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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