Trevor Cook of Minneapolis pleaded guilty in a Ponzi scheme that stole $190 million from investors. This criminal choked back tears when he admitted in federal court in running an international Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 1,000 people.
Mr. Cook’s career started out as a sports bookie in college and then rose to a multi-million dollar commodities trader. As a commodities trader, he placed client money into a Swiss brokerage firm called Crown Forex SA. He continued to trade even when he learned late in 2008 that the firm was going bankrupt.
He had promised investors low double-digit annual returns with no risk to capital if they would invest their savings in a currency investment program that he claimed relied on Islamic banks to forgo interest in the deals. While Cook said he did invest some of the investors’ money in currencies, federal regulators contend that the rest of his pitch was a fiction.
Cook told the court that he lied to investors about a number of things. One claim was to have $4 billion in assets under management. He plead guilty to a single count of mail fraud and one count of tax evasion. This carries a statutory maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, followed by up to three years of supervised release. This sentence is less than he might have faced under the advisory sentencing guidelines. These guidelines are based on the number of victims and amount of loss and could have called for 27 to 33 ¾ years in prison.
His guilty plea still doesn’t get him off the hook. If Cook fails to help the government locate and return assets for investors up to the day of sentencing, his plea bargain can be voided and he may face a longer time in jail.