URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: Legisi HYIP Ponzi Pitchman Sentenced To 60 Months In Federal Prison, Ordered To Pay $4.4 Million In Restitution
URGENT >> BULLETIN >> MOVING: Legisi HYIP Ponzi-scheme pitchman Matthew John Gagnon has been sentenced to 60 months in federal prison, ordered to pay $4.4 million in restitution and further ordered to serve three years’ supervised probation after his prison release, the office of U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade of the Eastern District of Michigan said.
Legisi, a $72 million Ponzi scheme pushed on fraud forums such as TalkGold and MoneyMakerGroup, was operated by Gregory N. McKnight, who faces sentencing in August. Gagnon’s five-year sentence was the maximum under a plea agreement with prosecutors, who’ve recommended McKnight serve 15 years.
Gagnon pushed Legisi and other fraud schemes through Mazu.com, the SEC said in 2010. The name of MoneyMakerGroup appears in evidence exhibits in the Legisi Ponzi case.
Gagnon will be permitted to self-report to prison, prosecutors said.
The Legisi case — perhaps particularly events involving Gagnon — has been closely watched because it shows that MLM-style HYIP pitchmen can be held accountable criminally for pushing scams. The SEC called Gagnon a threat to the investing public, describing him as a serial fraud pitchman who lacked licenses to sell securities and pushed the unregistered securities of multiple fraud schemes.
In civil charges announced yesterday in Ohio, prosecutors effectively made the same claims against promoters of the alleged Profitable Sunrise pyramid scheme. Included among them was Nanci Jo Frazer, who allegedly also promoted the $119 million AdSurfDaily Ponzi scheme and the $600 million Zeek Rewards Ponzi- and pyramid scheme.
The Legisi case began as an undercover probe by state securities regulators in Michigan and the U.S. Secret Service.
Legisi’s Terms of Service sought to make members affirm they were not an “informant, nor associated with any informant” of the IRS, FBI, CIA and the SEC, among other agencies, according to documents filed in federal court.
Current scams such as Profit Clicking have published similar terms, which read like an invitation to join an international financial conspiracy. Ohio prosecutors said they believed Frazer also pushed ProfitClicking, in addition to Zeek, ASD and Profitable Sunrise.
McKnight, prosecutors have said, tried to sanitize Legisi by calling it a “loan” program and engaging in semantic obfuscation. Any number of HYIP scams have employed similar linguistic sleight-of-hand, with ProfitClicking bizarrely arguing that neither itself nor affiliates can be held accountable.
Gagnon argued in court that he’d been duped by McKnight, but a federal judge didn’t buy it.