(CN) – After trying to leave the country on a phony passport issued in the name of a dead high school classmate, an Orange County man pleaded guilty to bilking more than 200 people of $15 million in a Ponzi scheme, federal prosecutors say in Los Angeles.
From 2000 to 2008, John Anthony Miller and his companies JAM Jr. Enterprises and Forte Financial Partners promised investors “guaranteed” returns of 10% to 18% a year on foreign currency trading, oil wells and real estate. Prosecutors say Miller never invested the money, but sent false monthly statements to his victims, many of whom had trusted him with their on their IRA retirement savings accounts.
In September 2008, he committed mail fraud by sending investors a letter that their investments “were performing well despite the economic downturn,” but by then, “his fraud scheme was collapsing,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
In October that year, Miller paid a $5,000 bribe to a State Department agent to buy a bogus passport, prosecutors said. When he handed the undercover agent the cash, the FBI arrested him.
Miller faces up to 47 years in federal prison for mail fraud, bribery, passport fraud and identity fraud at his July 20 sentencing.