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Saturday, February 24, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Old-Time Ponzi Men Put Away for Good

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Two Southern California septuagenarians who pulled off a $135 million Ponzi scam are likely to die in stir after being sentenced Monday to 9 and 10 years in federal prison.

Joel Barry Gillis, 75, was sentenced to 10 years and Edward Wishner, 77, both of Woodland Hills, got 9. Prosecutors called it "one of the largest Ponzi schemes ever seen in Southern California."

For 13 years they claimed their Calabasas-based company, Nationwide Automatic Systems, Inc., would give investors 20 percent annual returns from ATM machines.

They "sold" their supposed ATMs for $12,000 to $19,800 apiece and promised "thousands" of victims they would get 50 cents from each transaction, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Even as the Ponzi scheme collapsed and they bounced $3 million in checks for Ponzi payments, they raised $15 million from new victims, prosecutors said.

Both pleaded guilty in January to conspiracy, two counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud. They claimed their company operated 31,000 ATM machines that spewed out more than $1 billion in cash every month, but actually had no more than 250 machines, which they owned, not their investors. And the money they did dole out to their suckers did not come from profits, but from later investors - a typical Ponzi scheme.

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