LAS VEGAS (CN) — A federal judge in Nevada on Friday granted a defendant in an alleged half-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme a personal recognizance bond against the wishes of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Matthew Wade Beasley, 50, has been held in Clark County Detention Center since he was arrested by FBI agents at his Las Vegas home in March 2022. A grand jury last month indicted him on wire fraud and money laundering charges relating to what federal investigators have described as a nearly $500 million Ponzi scheme that preyed upon members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When three officers knocked on his door, Beasley answered with a gun in his hand and pointed it at his own head. He later pointed the gun at the agents, who shot him, according to the FBI.
Beasley was able to close the door while he barricaded himself in the house for four hours before surrendering, according to court documents.
“We’re pleased. The judge had found in favor of releasing Mr. Beasley, which is consistent with his constitutional rights,” Beasley’s attorney Jacqueline Tirinnanzi said after the proceedings.
Daniel Schiess of the U.S. Attorney’s Office argued that Beasley should be kept in jail and said he is facing “a very long jail sentence.”
He said Beasley told FBI agents at the time of his arrest: “I’m not going to prison. I’m not going to jail. I’ll be in jail for what I’ve done.”
Schiess also told Ferenbach that Beasley “was tipped off by people who were in on the scheme” that FBI agents were on the way to his home. “He knew the end was coming," he said.
The attorney said there were more than 1,000 individual victims lured into the scheme by claims from Beasley and his associates that they would be involved with lending to the winners of personal injury lawsuits who had not yet received their money judgments.
There was a big problem: The people who were supposedly waiting for those money judgments didn’t exist, according to court documents. Many of the victims were part of the Latter-day Saints Church in Las Vegas, where Beasley and his associates used funds from new investors to pay off earlier ones. It has been called the “Mormon Ponzi Scheme.”
Schiess told the judge that Beasley “created a terrible situation” and that he “still presents a serious risk to himself and others.” Also, Schiess said he put law enforcement into a “very dangerous situation” at the time of his arrest.
“It’s one of the most serious Ponzi schemes in this country,” said Schiess.
He also said Beasley should remain locked up because $7 million to $10 million of the $460 million he's accused of stealing has not been accounted for. That was determined by a “very thorough financial analysis” by the FBI and a receivership tasked to finding where the money went.
According to court documents, Beasley purchased luxury homes, cars and recreational vehicles, and lived an “opulent lifestyle.” He was also part owner of a private jet.
Schiess said the evidence against Beasley is overwhelming and that Beasley confessed to the scheme to FBI agents the day he was arrested.
Beasley’s attorney Tirinnanzi said her client has never owned a passport and, due to a court-ordered asset freeze, doesn’t have any access to money. She argued that Beasley was desperately needed to help his elderly parents and that his parents are willing to house their son.
Tirinnanzi also told the judge that Beasley has a job offer with a construction company and he is not a flight risk.
Despite the judge's decision, Beasley will have to spend the Easter weekend behind bars as government attorneys immediately appealed. Ferenbach will hear the government’s appeal Monday.
Beasley’s parents, Wayne and Violet Thygesen, attended the proceedings but declined to comment.
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