UPDATE: Thanh-Viet ‘Jeremy’ Cao’s 30-Year Ponzi Sentence One Of Longest In Southern California History; Feds Say He Told Story About A ‘Chopped Up’ Infant And Threatened Victims With ‘Extreme Violence’

Thanh-Viet “Jeremy” Cao, the California Ponzi schemer later accused in Nevada of filing fraudulent liens for enormous sums against public officials and identified by the Anti-Defamation League as a “sovereign citizen,” once threatened to torture and kill his business partner and the partner’s wife and family, federal prosecutors said.

To keep victims in a state of terror, Cao said he knew people who previously had “chopped up” a baby in front of the baby’s parents, and then killed the baby’s mother,” prosecutors said.

Those threats led to an extortion and firearms case brought by the state of California.

And Cao dialed up the terror by referencing an “assassination” and “fatal car accident.” When he was arrested, “he possessed a loaded firearm, and body armor and other firearms were found at his residence,” prosecutors said.

Cao, who was convicted in the state-level extortion case in 2009, was convicted Monday in the federal Ponzi case, which was brought after an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Larry A. Burns to 30 years in prison and ordered to pay victims $12.4 million in restitution. He is scheduled to stand trial in the false-liens case later this year.

Victims in the liens case included four federal judges, staff members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California and employees of the SEC, the Secret Service and the IRS, federal prosecutors in Nevada said year.

The IRS Criminal Investigations unit brought the Nevada case, prosecutors said.

Cao filed at least 22 fraudulent liens for astronomical sums, according to records. He turned to filing bogus financial claims after law enforcement, acting with the authority of a court order in the California Ponzi case, seized a $200,000 Bentley Cao had acquired with investor funds and sought to equip with armor.

“Cao is a financial predator who will stop at nothing to cheat his victims out of their life savings,” said U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy of the Southern District of California.

“He continues to show no remorse for his actions, which destroyed the finances of many innocent and hardworking people,” Duffy said. “When law enforcement and the federal judiciary stepped in to stop this fraud, Cao retaliated by trying to ruin their finances through the filing of false liens. The sentence in this [Ponzi] case demonstrates how dangerous predators like Cao can be.”

A veteran Secret Service agent said bids to injure victims and the U.S. financial system would not be tolerated.

“The U.S. Secret Service has more than 140 years of experience in investigating criminals like Cao, who target the stability of this country’s financial systems and prey on innocent victims,” said Gregory J. Meyer, special agent in charge.

Cao faces a maximum sentence of 223 years if convicted of all counts in the false-liens case. He was indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas in July 2010.

As part of his liens fraud, Cao developed a “hit list” in which he promised to obtain certain personal information of government offcials “so he could ruin them financially,” prosecutors said.

He also filed for bogus tax refunds, according to records.

Cao’s purported business career was one marked by “cheating” that got him fired from his job for “fraud and misconduct,” prosecutors said, describing him as a “career criminal.”

“When victims asked Cao what happened to their investments, Cao taunted them with profanity,” prosecutors said. “Cao’s victims lost their life savings, retirement funds, and their homes.”

About 190 victims were affected in the Ponzi scheme, prosecutors said, describing his 30-year sentence as one of the longest in a white-collar case in the history of Southern California.

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