Arthur Heffelfinger Sentenced To Prison For Ponzi Scheme That Fleeced 97-Year-Old Widow Suffering From Advanced Dementia

Arthur Heffelfinger, the Montana man accused criminally under state law last year of operating a pyramid promotional scheme and using clients’ money to sustain a Ponzi scheme that had gathered more than $2 million from at least 20 clients, has been sentenced to prison.

Heffelfinger, 64, pleaded guilty to Ponzi and theft charges in July 2010. But he disputed a charge of Exploitation of an Older Person, amid allegations he had raided the account of a 97-year-old widow afflicted with advanced dementia. The widow was living out her final days in a nursing home. She died in 2009.

Prosecutors said she was a nurse who had spent much of her life as a missionary in Africa. Heffelfinger also was accused of ripping off her husband, who had died in 2002 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The husband also was in his 90s.

Lewis and Clark County District Judge Kathy Seeley found Heffelfinger guilty of the exploitation charge in October 2010. Sentencing on all of the charges to which Heffelfinger either pleaded guilty or was found guilty occurred yesterday.

Heffelfinger was given concurrent sentences of 10 years each on the pyramid/Ponzi and exploitation charges, and a suspended sentence of 10 years on the theft charge. The Helena Independent Record reported that Heffelfinger, a Vietnam veteran who argued he was driven to commit the crime by post-traumatic stress from the war, could be eligible for parole after serving 30 months of the sentence.

Prosecutors said Heffelfinger began using the elderly couple’s money to make Ponzi payments just days after receiving it in March 2001, setting aside $36,000 of the couple’s initial deposit of $97,000 for his own use.

After the woman’s husband died, prosecutors said, Heffelfinger continued to manage money for the woman. Subsequent funds entrusted to him also went to Ponzi payments. Records in the case suggest a tax-refund check for the woman in the amount of $28,776  received in June 2003 and entrusted to Heffelfinger immediately was used to make Ponzi payments and pay Heffelfinger’s bills.

See earlier story.

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