Elderly Oklahoma City Man Sentenced in Ponzi Scheme

An eighty-year-old Oklahoma City man was sentenced last week after convictions for conspiracy, wire fraud, and money laundering. Joseph Angelo Sivigliano, who faced up to twenty years in federal prison and a fine of up to $500,000, was sentenced to 96 months in jail and ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution to his victims. Though eight years in prison is less than half of the maximum sentence he faced, Sivigliano's Oklahoma federal fraud attorney told U.S. District Judge David Russell that, due to his client's age and health conditions, a prison sentence of any length would be the equivalent of a life sentence.

Joseph Sivigliano was found guilty in April of forty-six federal criminal counts of wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy in connection with a $3.8 million real-estate Ponzi scheme. He was accused of selling investment opportunities in a purported non-profit organization called "Helping Hearts and Hands, Inc,." located in Bethany, Oklahoma. Sivigliano told investors that the group would engage in real-estate investment with profits supporting charitable organizations including "Teaching Little Hearts and Hands," a Christian child care facility. Instead, prosecutors say, Sivigliano used investment profits to pay returns to earlier investors and to support his own business ventures, including Celebrity Limo and Valet Corp.; MC Productions, Inc.; and Lansbrook Worship and Events Center, owned by his daughter and grandson.

Two co-conspirators in the case pleaded guilty in November 2010 to charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and testified against Sivigliano at his trial at the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Venus Marie Pimson, 43, of Yukon, and Dwight Pimson, 57, of Shreveport, Louisiana, each face up to five years in prison and fines of up to $200,000 for their roles in the fraud scheme. They have not yet been sentenced.

A Ponzi scheme is an investment scheme in which early investors are paid from the investment funds of subsequent investors. According to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), "the fraudsters focus on attracting new money to make promised payments to earlier-stage investors and to use for personal expenses, instead of engaging in any legitimate investment activity." The SEC says that these schemes generally fall apart when either no new investors are found or when a large number of investors ask to cash out at the same time.

Fraud is a white collar offense that can be prosecuted as either a state crime or a federal crime, depending on the circumstances of the case. Being accused of a federal white collar crime can carry repercussions including lengthy prison sentences, heavy fines, restitution, and the destruction of one's professional reputation. If you have been accused of fraud or other white collar crime in Oklahoma, contact attorney Adam R. Banner for an evaluation of your case. Call (405) 778-4800 today.

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