Examples of real Oregon Ponzi schemes

A typical Ponzi scheme will be characterized in the following manner: large returns are paid to initial investors out of the funds of later investors. This gives the first investors confidence and motivates others to invest.

Oregon Ponzi schemes include –


James C. Nistler, Medford-area developer and mortgage broker

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.


C. Wesley Rhodes, Jr., West Linn financial adviser

Misappropriated $16 million in investor funds to buy collector cars, art, and lavish lifestyle. Created and distributed fictitious account statements. Pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and money laundering and was sentenced February 2009.

Currently serving a 10-year federal prison sentence in Texas.


Phyllis and Michael Rich, Bend

Along with her now-deceased husband Michael, convinced 250+ people to invest nearly $20 million in trust deeds “secured” by properties in Ore., Wash., Ariz. and Hawaii. Used money to purchase a corporate jet and exotic vacations. She pleaded guilty to securities fraud and tax charge and was sentenced in 2007. 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.

Michael Rich was sentenced in April 2008 to nearly 20 years in federal prison but he died soon after. The couple was ordered to pay more than $23 million in restitution. Losses to victims: over $13 million.

      Dennis Thaut, Eugene-area financial adviser

Obtained almost $4 million from his clients and 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. Currently serving a 15-year state prison sentence after pleading guilty in May 2009 to 17 counts of aggravated first degree theft.

Yongsu Meade, Beaverton

Took in approximately $2 million from at least 20 investors to “trade” in foreign currencies. Led her investors to believe that she was generating positive monthly returns trading foreign currencies, but the “profits” returned to investors were usually other investors’ money – a typical Ponzi scheme. She was sentenced in September 2009 and is currently serving 57-month state prison sentence after pleading guilty to aggravated theft and for selling unregistered securities. Was ordered to pay more than $644,000 in restitution.

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