Florida businessman pleads guilty in US$800 million Ponzi scheme

By Christine Duhaime | September 15th, 2010

Florida businessman Nevin Shapiro pleaded guilty to running a US$880 million Ponzi scheme. Shapiro was the founder and president of Capitol Investments USA, Inc. (Capitol), a grocery distribution business. He surrendered to the FBI and was arraigned in federal court in New Jersey in April of this year.

He was charged with securities fraud and money laundering. Shapiro used Capitol to solicit millions from investors when it had virtually no income-generating business. New investor funds were used to make principal and interest payments to existing investors and fund Shapiro’s lavish lifestyle.

According to the indictment, Shapiro paid himself US$23 million in salaries and another US$15 million in loans, and charged more than US$600,000 of personal expenses to Capitol’s American Express card, including US$116,000 of charges for a girlfriend. About US$5 million of the funds misappropriated went to pay for illegal sports gambling debts. Shapiro faces a 20 year term of imprisonment for securities fraud and a US$5 million fine. The money laundering charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Shapiro will be sentenced in January 2011.

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