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CFO Sink's Investigators Help Put Ponzi Schemer Behind Bars

3/30/2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 30, 2010
CONTACT: Kevin Cate or Jennifer Hirst, 850-413-2842

 
CFO SINK’S INVESTIGATORS HELP PUT PONZI SCHEMER BEHIND BARS

 
TALLAHASSEE— Florida CFO Alex Sink today announced that Ponzi schemer Richard Taft Johnson, 67, will serve eight years in federal prison and three years of supervised probation for defrauding $13.2 million from more than fifty people, including $4 million from Florida investors. Johnson will also have to pay $13.2 million in restitution. CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud and the Manatee County Sherriff’s Office opened the initial investigation. 
 
“This fraudster is getting exactly what he deserves— serious jail time,” said CFO Sink. “I am grateful for the work of my investigators, local law enforcement, the US Attorney’s Office, and the FBI for working together to put him away and letting all the other would be scammers out there know that this kind of action will not be tolerated.”
 
Johnson worked out of his condominium in Manatee, Florida, without a license to sell insurance in the state. Presenting himself as the president of an investment company, Johnson received more than $4 million from five different Florida victims, four over the age of 65, between 2003 and 2009, under the guise that the money was being invested in a low-risk fund. Further investigation revealed additional victims located outside of Florida. CFO Sink’s investigators turned the case over to the FBI at the end of May 2009 in an effort to pursue federal charges. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ross I. MacKenzie.
 
For the third year in a row, CFO Sink has proposed Safeguard Our Seniors legislation to strengthen senior investor fraud laws. Senator Mike Bennett and Representative Maria Sachs have sponsored the 2010 legislation (SB 844), which comes after another 277 complaints from seniors just about annuity fraud in the last year. During the 2009 session, CFO Sink’s Safeguard Our Seniors legislation passed the Florida Senate unanimously, but was not heard in a House Committee. This year’s legislation is ready for a floor vote in the Senate, and has stalled once again in the House.
 
CFO Sink’s Department of Financial Services has held nearly 400 ‘Safeguard Our Seniors’ workshops throughout the state during the last two years. At the workshops, seniors are informed about how to protect themselves from financial fraud. The programs have helped Florida seniors recover nearly $9 million, and helped put some senior scammers behind bars.
 
To learn more about CFO Sink’s Safeguard Our Seniors Task Force, learn what to consider when purchasing annuities, or read the stories of senior victims, please visit www.flseniors.net.  Floridians who believe they may have been the victim of annuity fraud should call (850) 413-3089 or toll-free at 1-877-My-FL-CFO (1-877- 693-5236) or log on to www.MyFloridaCFO.com to file a complaint.
 
CFO Sink’s Division of Insurance Fraud made more than 830 insurance fraud-related arrests in the last fiscal year, and investigates various forms of insurance fraud relating to health, life, auto, property and workers’ compensation insurance policies.  
 
As a statewide elected officer of the Florida Cabinet, CFO Alex Sink oversees the Department of Financial Services.  A successful business leader with nearly three decades of experience in the private sector, Sink is serving her first term as Florida's CFO.  CFO Sink's priorities include using her business experience to cut wasteful spending, holding government accountable to Florida’s taxpayers, and cracking down on financial and insurance fraud.