Archive for Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Local woman faces 33 criminal charges

October 1, 2003

A 35-year-old Tonganoxie woman faces 33 criminal charges in what the Kansas securities commissioner alleges was a $1.2 million Ponzi scheme that defrauded eight area investors.

Carla Jean Meyer Senger is charged with illegally selling securities between June 1999 and September 2000 and selling securities as an unregistered broker during that same time period. She also faces 31 counts of using false or misleading statements to sell stocks, limited partnership interests and investment contracts to eight northeast Kansas residents.

  • Ponzi schemes are a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s.
  • Ponzi told investors that he could provide a 40 percent return in just 90 days compared with 5 percent for bank savings accounts.
  • Ponzi was deluged with funds from investors. Though a few early investors were paid off to make the scheme look legitimate, an investigation found Ponzi had only purchased about $30 worth of the international mail coupons.

"We are alleging a scheme of approximately $1.2 million, but because of the Ponzi scheme, the amount of the loss is approximately $358,000," said Fran Brunner, associate general counsel in the state's securities commissioner's office, which filed the charges. "There was recycled money."

In a Ponzi scheme, early investors in a venture are paid with investments from later investors.

"Basically, she would offer to sell a security or a stock to someone and then she would not actually purchase that stock," Brunner said. "She told folks that she was a stock broker or she had been a broker-dealer, and she was not."

A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 19 in Leavenworth County District Court. Senger appeared in court last week and is free on bond, according to officials with the Leavenworth County jail.

Brunner said the securities commissioner took administrative action against Senger in October 2001. That action ordered Senger and Business Concepts to stop violating the state's securities laws.

If Senger is found guilty, Brunner said, she could face up to 38 months in prison.

"I know that sounds crazy, when you have 33 counts," she said.

But the state's sentencing guidelines dictate the maximum amount of jail time that a judge can hand down. Because some of the allegations involve $25,000 or more, Brunner said, the case is a "presumptive prison case."

"The judge starts from the assumption that she goes to jail," Brunner said. "She has to show the judge that she shouldn't go to jail."

In the complaint that Brunner filed:

  • Eight victims are listed. One is from Tonganoxie; three are from Basehor; two are from Overland Park; one is from Edgerton; and one is from Shawnee.
  • Senger allegedly made false statements to the victims between July 1999 and August 2000.
  • Senger also is known by several other names, including Carla Jean Garry-Meyer, Carla Jean Garry and Carla Jean Meyer, according to court documents.

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