Leader of Ponzi scheme gets 30-year-term - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Leader of Ponzi scheme that cheated investors out of millions gets 30-year term

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A career criminal who ran a massive Ponzi scheme that cheated investors out of their life savings and used the ill-gotten proceeds to buy a $200,000 Bentley, among other things, was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison.

Thanh-Viet "Jeremy" Cao, 30, was also ordered to pay more than $12 million in restitution.

A jury last December found Cao guilty of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud.

The 360-month sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Larry Burns is one of the longest white-collar crime sentences in the history of the Southern District of California, prosecutor said.

"Defendant Cao is a financial predator who will stop at nothing to cheat his victims out of their life savings," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "He continues to show no remorse for his actions, which destroyed the finances of many innocent and hard-working people.

"When law enforcement and the federal judiciary stepped in to stop his fraud, Cao retaliated by trying to ruin their finances through the filing of false liens," she said. "The sentence in this case demonstrates how dangerous predators like Cao can be."

According to court documents and trial testimony, Cao was a career criminal who both defrauded and threatened his victims with extreme violence while operating the long-term Ponzi scheme.

Cao claimed to be making legitimate investments in real estate, mortgages and certain financial transactions.

In reality, according to prosecutors, Cao had a long history of cheating clients, and was fired from a job in the financial sector for fraud and misconduct.

He used the victims' money to pay for a $200,000 Bentley which he tried to armor, numerous trips to Las Vegas, the remodeling of his parents' home, a $7,000 watch and more than $10,000 in Louis Vuitton luggage, prosecutors said.

In all, Cao cheated about 190 victims out of more than $10 million, according to prosecutors.

Cao was convicted in a separate state case of extortion, making criminal threats and carrying a loaded handgun in a public place.

After the failure of one of his business proposals, Cao repeatedly threatened to torture and kill his business partner and the partner's wife and children, according to sentencing documents.

Cao told the business partner that "the family" had previously chopped up a baby in front of the infant's parents and then killed the mother, and also referenced an assassination and a "fatal car accident" -- all of which he said could befall the business partner if he did not receive his money, according to the government.

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