A former Poway life insurance agent was sentenced to a dozen years in prison on Wednesday for launching a multi-million dollar Ponzi program that cheated nearly 50 victims, including many seniors who had lost their savings.
47-year-old Christopher Dougherty pleaded guilty to securities fraud and theft earlier this year for offering victims victims opportunities to invest in companies he owned and using part of their funds on personal expenses such as remodeling, travel, and tuition fees to that State Department of Insurance.
The investments that Dougherty announced to his victims included a 100-hectare organic cattle and marijuana cultivation project in Alpine that did not generate any profits for investors.
Dougherty also used part of the victims' money to repay other investors "in the classic Ponzi way," and when he was unable to repay his investors, the Ponzi program "collapsed," a DOI statement said.
More than half of Dougherty's victims were 65 years or older.
Deputy District Attorney Michael Zachry said more than $ 10 million was raised, with a total net loss for the victims of more than $ 7 million.
During a video conference hearing related to the COVID 19 pandemic, Dougherty made a statement to the victims shortly before the 12-year sentence was imposed.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," said Dougherty. "I sincerely apologized to you and your family members and I also want to let you know that I have made a mistake and will not do so in the future."
Zachry said the case was "extremely outrageous in every way" and the impact on the victims went beyond the dollar amounts.
Regarding the elderly victims, Zachry said they were “not young enough to ever hope to make that money back – the money they had thrown away for their golden years, or wanted to give to relatives or just pass it on enjoy your life at a time after working so hard in your younger days. That was taken from them. So it's more than just money, it's their whole life. "
Dougherty filed for bankruptcy in October 2018 and was indicted by the San Diego District Attorney General in April 2019.