BULLETIN: Appeals Court Upholds Conviction Of James Bunchan, Pyramid Schemer Who Scammed Investors, Plotted Murder Of 12 Witnesses And Identified Federal Prosecutor As Possible Homicide Target

BULLETIN: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has upheld the conviction of James Bunchan in a murder-for-hire plot that grew from a pyramid scheme that gathered $20 million and mostly targeted people of Cambodian descent.

Federal prosecutors described the pyramid scheme as “devastating,” saying it relied on smoke and mirrors to fleece more than 500 victims, many of whom lacked command of English and had little formal education.

While awaiting trial in the pyramid case, Bunchan discussed hiring a hitman to kill Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Pirozzolo of the District of Massachusetts. Pirozzolo specializes in prosecuting economic crimes.

Bunchan was the founder and owner of World Marketing Direct Selling (WMDS) and OneUniverseOnline (1UOL), which were positioned as purveyors of cosmetics, health and dietary supplements.

The pyramid scheme collapsed in early 2005. Federal prosecutors said the companies generated money almost exclusively through the recruitment of new investors or “members.”

While jailed in Massachusetts awaiting trial in the pyramid case, Bunchan hatched a murder-for-hire plot that called for 12 people be believed would testify against him to be killed. The FBI became aware of the plot and staged a sting in which Bunchan believed an assassin named “Jamal” would carry out the murders for a fee.

“Jamal” actually was an undercover police officer posing as a hitman.

Bunchan first was convicted on the pyramid charges and sentenced to 35 years in federal prison. After the pyramid trial, he was tried on charges flowing from the murder-for-hire plot. A jury returned guilty verdicts in the murder-for-hire plot, and Bunchan was sentenced to 25 years.

All in all, Bunchan’s pyramid scheme resulted in sentences totaling 60 years. His bids to overturn convictions in both cases now have failed.

Pirozzolo, who joined the Justice Department in 2003 and encountered the Bunchan pyramid case two years later, was promoted to First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts last year.

In 2007, Pirozzolo received the Justice Department’s Director’s Award for his role in the investigation and prosecution of illegal mutual fund market timing conduct occurring at Prudential Securities Inc.

Pirozzolo also received the Chief Postal Inspector Award for his work on the Prudential market timing cases. In 2008, he received a Victim Rights Award for his work on the Bunchan case.

Visit Leagle.com to read the murder-for-hire appeals decision against Bunchan.

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