07 December 2011
Sanibel resident bilked hundreds, some Polk residents, in Ponzi scheme

BY CHASE PURDY
The Ledger

TAMPA | A man who stole more than $17 million from victims in Polk and elsewhere in Florida is a "pure con man," a federal judge said Tuesday in sentencing the defendant to 20 years in prison.

James Davis Risher, 61, is "a man who would rather steal something from you than have you give it to him," U.S. District Court Judge Steven D. Merryday said.

Standing a few feet away in a gray jumpsuit and chains, Risher looked to the ground.

The former Sanibel resident was sentenced for his role in an elaborate Ponzi scheme, one that started in 2007 and bilked hundreds of Floridians. He had pleaded guilty Sept. 9 to mail fraud, money laundering and engaging in an illegal monetary transaction.

For the more than 20 victims who packed into the courtroom gallery, it was a day to voice their grievances publicly. Most of them shared the same story, one in which they were systematically duped into entrusting Risher with their life savings under the guise he'd make sound investments and healthy returns.

There were retired Polk County Schools teachers and police officers, retired Publix employees, and small business owners — all of them tricked into trusting a man they described as "convincing," "cold" and "calculating."


Read the rest of the story at The Ledger.

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