Lawyer pleads guilty to $400m Ponzi fraud

13 May 2009

A New York lawyer who defrauded a number of hedge funds out of $400 million through the sale of fake promissory notes has pleaded guilty to charges included securities fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.

Marc Dreier, the founder and sole equity partner of Manhattan law firm Dreier LLP, faces up to life in prison for the Ponzi scheme.

Prosecutors claimed that the lawyer sold over 85 phony promissory notes, supposedly issued by a New York-based developer, to at least 13 hedge funds and three other individuals between 2004 and 2008.

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mr Dreier employed forged financial statements and audit opinion letters to make the notes appear legitimate, as well as a cast of associates posing as investment advisors to pull off what it described as an "elaborate" deception.

Federal prosecutors said he laundered money through Dreier LLP and then used it to prop up the firm, pay off victims and support a luxurious lifestyle complete with a 121-foot yacht.

Judge Jed Rakoff said: "By his own admission, [Mr Dreier] has shown he is to be ranked with those who have committed some of the most egregious frauds in history."

Mr Dreier will be sentenced on July 13th.

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