3 Defendants Guilty on All Counts in Cook Ponzi Scheme
On Tuesday, a federal jury in Minneapolis convicted three men on charges that stem from Trevor Cook’s $194 million Ponzi scheme.
Jason “Bo” Beckman, of Plymouth; Gerald Durand, of Faribault; and conservative radio show host Patrick Kiley, of Burnsville, were initially charged last July in connection with the fraud and were then charged with a superseding indictment in February.
In 2010, Cook was sentenced to 25 years in prison for orchestrating the fraud scheme, which prosecutors said at the time involved upwards of 1,000 investors.
Between 2005 and 2009, Beckman, Durand, and Kiley worked with Cook and Christopher Pettengill to defraud investors by marketing investments in a foreign currency trading program, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Pettengill pleaded guilty last year and awaits sentencing.
The men misled investors by stating that the currency program would earn a double-digit rate of return, typically between 10.5 percent and 12 percent annually, and include little to no risk, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Cook and the others also lied about their backgrounds and qualifications.
Investors were also given misleading statements indicating that their investments were performing as promised. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, some investor assets were invested in foreign currency trading, but most of that trading was high-risk and often resulted in losses.
After a trial that spanned more than a month, Beckman, Durand, and Kiley were found guilty Tuesday on all counts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Specifically, the three were each convicted of 12 counts of wire and mail fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and two counts of money laundering.
Beckman was convicted of two additional counts of wire fraud, two counts of mail fraud, two counts of filing a false tax return, and one count of tax evasion.
While soliciting investors for Cook’s fraudulent currency program, Beckman was also looking to buy a stake in the Minnesota Wild—and he made false claims to the NHL regarding which assets in trading accounts were his own, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also misrepresented his assets under management, which gave investors in the currency program a false sense of security.
Beckman failed to file or filed false income tax returns in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In addition, he initiated the sale of two life insurance policies of an investor and took the money to prop up a currency trading account that had lost about $15 million, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In addition to the fraud and money laundering charges, Durand was convicted on two counts of concealing a material fact from the government and three counts of filing a false tax return. He hid $11,839 from the court-appointed receiver charged with locating assets of the fraud, and he filed false individual tax returns for three consecutive years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Over the course of several years, Cook and his conspirators received about $194 million in investments, of which only about $109 million was sent to currency trading firms. Roughly $68 million was lost in higher-risk trading, and $52 million was paid out to investors under the guise of being returns, when in fact they were withdrawals of other investments, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. About $30 million was diverted to fund the businesses and personal expenses of Cook and his co-conspirators.
Beckman, Durand, and Kiley face up to 20 years in prison on each wire fraud and mail fraud count, 10 years on each money laundering count, and five years on the conspiracy charge. Beckman and Durand face up to three years more on each false tax return count, and Beckman faces up to five more years on the tax evasion charge.
Beckman, Durand, and Kiley are being detained until they are sentenced; U.S District Court Chief Judge Michael J. Davis will determine their sentences at a future hearing.
“People save money their entire lives for retirement or to send their children to college. Fraudsters who choose to bilk them out of that money by pretending to be their friends or ‘advisors’ are some of the worst kinds of criminals,” U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a statement. “We take our obligation to prosecute them very seriously, and we are very pleased with the jury’s verdict in this particular case.”
In addition to Beckman, Durand, Kiley, Cook, and Pettengill, Jon Jason Greco pleaded guilty last year to lying to federal agents about concealing assets related to the fraud. Greco received a 10-month sentence.
Court-appointed receiver R.J. Zayed continues his effort to recover proceeds from Cook’s fraud.
According to a report by the Star Tribune, Cook’s international Ponzi scheme targeted conservatives and Christians and “spoiled the retirement dreams of mostly elderly victims who have little chance of recovery.” To read the full Star Tribune story, which includes an in-depth history of the Cook case, click here.