There is no definitive
look of con artists. They may dress well and look professional. They may
seem as comfortable to you as a neighbor on your street, the owner of
a local business you frequent, or a relative. They look like someone you
Take a look at these
people. Some of them are real con artists, and some of them are not. Guess
which ones you think are the con artists, then click on the picture to
see if you are right.
C. Wesley Rhodes, Jr.
West Linn. This financial adviser misappropriated
approximately $16 million in investor funds to purchase collector cards, art, and
a lavish lifestyle. To further his scheme, he created and distributed fictitious
account statements that purportedly represented actual stocks held in his clients'
accounts. He pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering
and received a 10-year federal prison sentence in February 2009.
Sandy. In a scheme that lasted nearly
four years, Opperman sold $555,000 worth of securities to Oregon investors that
represented interests in high-end cattle and bucking bulls and their progeny. Opperman
wasn’t licensed to sell the investments, nor were the securities registered as
required by Oregon law. As part of the fraud, he altered registration paperwork
connected to the bulls so investors were unaware they were investing in the same
animals that were offered and sold to others.
Opperman was sentenced to 60 months in state prison after pleading guilty to racketeering, first-degree forgery and securities fraud. He also was ordered to pay more than $400,000 in restitution.
Tigard. Mi Ghim and her husband used their combined experience in investment banking and mortgage loan services to convince family members, friends, and some of Denny’s former co-workers and clients to invest in distressed and short-sale homes that they were not legally representing. In 2012, Denny was convicted of aggravated theft and theft and received a 30-day jail sentence; Mi Kyung received a five-year state prison sentence for theft, aggravated theft, and criminal mischief.
Oregon City. Moore
was an insurance agent who, along with his longtime partner,
Edward Michael Johnson of Milwaukie, took money from family
members, longtime friends, employees - anyone who trusted them
- to invest in a number of "opportunities" including an invention
that could turn water into electricity and an overseas business
that could double their money in a year. Investors' money was
actually spent on a Lexus for Johnson, a Rose Garden suite for
Moore, and payments to earlier investors - a characteristic
Ponzi scheme. He served a two-year state prison sentence and
received two years of post-prison supervision. He was required
to sell his home in order to pay $310,000 in restitution for
bilking his investors.
Bend. Along with her husband, Michael
Rich, she convinced more than 250 people to invest nearly $20 million in trust
deeds ostensibly secured by properties in Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Hawaii.
They used the money to purchase a corporate jet and exotic vacations. She pleaded
guilty to one count of securities fraud and one tax charge in 2006. She served
about 2-1/2 years of a 51-month federal prison sentence and is responsible for
paying more than $23 million in restitution.
Beaverton. She took in approximately
$2 million from at least 20 investors purportedly to trade in foreign currencies
in the international foreign exchange market. Meade led her investors to believe
that she was generating positive monthly returns trading foreign currencies, but
in a typical Ponzi scheme, the “profits” returned to investors were usually other
investors’ money. When Meade did trade in the foreign currency market, she lost
significant amounts of investors’ money. In September 2009 she pleaded guilty to
aggravated theft and for selling unregistered securities and was sentenced to 57
months in state prison and was ordered to pay more than $644,000 in restitution.
Due to the statute of limitations, the state was only able to prosecute Meade for
defrauding four investors.
Yachats. Along with her husband, she
raised more than $1 million from approximately 27 investors who purchased stock
and notes from their two companies. The Smiths invested most of the money they
raised in two speculative companies that never turned a profit. They diverted more
than $200,000 of the investor funds to their personal use, including a Hawaiian
trip, Cartier jewelry, and day-today living expenses. At the time, neither the
Smiths nor their companies were licensed to sell securities, and the investments
they sold were not registered. In May 2007, Smith was given 30 days home confinement,
five years of supervised probation, and 320 hours of community service. As part
of their sentences, the Smiths were ordered to pay about $600,000 in victim restitution.
Bend. Convinced more than 250 people
to invest nearly $20 million in trust deeds ostensibly secured by properties in
Oregon, Washington, Arizona and Hawaii. He and his wife used the money to purchase
a corporate jet and exotic vacations. Rich was convicted of securities fraud, bank
fraud, money laundering, obstruction of justice and tax fraud, and sentenced to
nearly 20 years in federal prison in April 2008; he died two months later.
Portland. This self-described
pastor used various real estate-based scams to bilk victims,
mostly low-income people out of at least $43,000. He was convicted
in two Portland-area counties for theft, securities and real
estate fraud and received a 13-year state prison sentence in
2008. Pritchett was also ordered to pay restitution to each
victim totaling more than $78,000.
Medford. Operated a complex real estate
Ponzi scheme to defraud investors. Nistler, once a high-ranking U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development official in the late 1980s, took in $1.2 million
from investors to build houses on the proposed Tennessee Acres housing development,
but actually spent less than $400,000 on the project. Nistler was unlicensed and
the securities he sold were unregistered. About a dozen investors, mostly elderly,
lost more than $800,000.
He was convicted of racketeering, securities
fraud, and aggravated theft in the first degree and was sentenced to a 19-month
suspended sentence in state prison; his case is under appeal.
Milwaukie. Johnson and his business
partner, Jeffrey Louis Moore, took money from family members, longtime friends,
employees – anyone who trusted them – to invest in a number of “opportunities”
including an invention that could turn water into electricity and an overseas business
that could double their money in a year. Investors’ money was actually spent on
a Lexus for Johnson, a Rose Garden suite for Moore, and payments to earlier investors
– a characteristic of a Ponzi scheme. Johnson was sentenced in April 2008 to three
years probation. He was required to sell his home in order to pay $200,000 in restitution.
He died in August 2010.
Marcola. This financial adviser obtained
almost $4 million from his clients but used it for his own personal expenses and
to make monthly payments to his investors. Many of his clients were retirees who
lost most, if not all, of their nest eggs. Taut was sentenced to 15 years in state
prison in June 2009 after pleading guilty to 17 counts of aggravated first degree
Medford. Convinced friends and family
members to invest in a land development project located in Montana. Pugliano told
his investors they would see returns on their money invested once the land – belonging
to Native Indian tribes – was developed. The problem is that it is illegal to purchase
such land for development. Once Pugliano realized this, he did not pay back his
investors. Instead he used their retirement funds to buy expensive cars and take
Pugliano was sentenced to 33 months
in state prison on multiple counts of racketeering, first-degree theft, and securities
fraud. He also received three years probation and will be ordered to pay yet-to-be
determined restitution to his victims.
Tigard. Denny, along with his wife, Mi, used their combined experience in investment banking and mortgage loan services to convince family members, friends, and some of Denny’s former co-workers and clients to invest in distressed and short-sale homes that they were not legally representing. In 2012, Denny was convicted of aggravated theft and theft and received a 30-day jail sentence; Mi Kyung received a five-year state prison sentence for theft, aggravated theft, and criminal mischief.
Yachats.Yachats. Michael Smith was sentenced
in May 2007 to a 57-month state prison sentence after pleading guilty to racketeering,
theft and aggravated theft. He and his wife, Stacey Lynne Smith, raised more than
$1 million from about 27 investors and diverted more than $200,000 for their own
use including a trip to Hawaii, Cartier jewelry and day-to-day living expenses.
The funds they raised were invested in two speculative companies that never turned
a profit. Neither of the Smiths were licensed to sell securities nor were the securities
Portland. As owner of Church Ministries Distribution, Inc., a distributor of faith-based materials for churches and schools, Smith persuaded acquaintances and employees to invest in his company through a number of means, including an air mileage program, stock sales, investment contracts, and promissory notes. Smith broke Oregon law by not registering the investments and not being licensed to sell securities. He also did not disclose an earlier personal bankruptcy to his investors. In 2011, he was ordered to pay $264,888 in restitution.