Texas Con Man Gets a Long Stretch

FORT WORTH (CN) - A Texan who lammed it to Greece was sentenced Thursday to 17½ years in federal prison for running a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
     Christopher Blackwell, 34, of Colleyville, was sentenced to 210 months and ordered to pay $8.6 million in restitution.
     Blackwell pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud two years ago, then fled to the island of Corfu. He was arrested by the Department of Homeland Security and Greek authorities and extradited back to the United States.
     According to the indictment, Blackwell operated the scheme from January 2007 until June 2011, when he was arrested in Phoenix .
     Blackwell promised investors high rates of return with little to no risk for specific business ventures. But prosecutors said he spent practically of it on himself and on Ponzi payments.
     A Homeland Security investigator testified Thursday about the financial impact the scam had on dozens of people. Many victims lost all the money they gave Blackwell.
     One lost all of the $325,000 he gave Blackwell, prosecutors said after Blackwell's indictment in 2011.
     "Agents obtained Blackwell's bank records and were able to determine that Blackwell did not invest the money as promised, but instead used it for personal expenditures including automatic teller machine withdrawals, dining and entertainment, luxury vehicle expenses and payments to family and business associates," prosecutors said after the indictment.
     In February 2011, the SEC sued Blackwell, AV Bar Reg Inc. and Millers A Game LLC, two entities he controlled, claiming Blackwell promised investors his trading program guaranteed returns of 25 to 30 percent per month.
     The SEC said he touted a false academic pedigree, including master's and doctoral degrees from at a prestigious university in Spain.