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May 19, 2010

Ponzi schemer suggests European losses should be excluded from sentencing calculations

This local story about a federal hearing from Tennessee highlights some interesting sentencing arguments being made about a ponzi schemer.  Here are highlights: 

Convicted Gatlinburg swindler Dennis Bolze will testify today in a hearing to determine what factors should be considered in determining his sentence.... Bolze is seeking a reduction in a recommended sentence range of 27 years to 33 years and nine months.

Sentencing is set for June 22. Two of Bolze's local victims testified earlier today. "Dennis Bolze deserves the maximum penalty," said Don Cason, who was a close personal friend of Bolze.

Cason said he and his family have lost nearly everything in Bolze's Ponzi scheme. "He reached into our heart, grabbed it and threw it out," Cason said.

Bolze, hoping to reduce the recommended minimum prison sentence of 27 years, asked to have his dealings in Europe - where most of his victims live - to not be counted against him when his sentence is determined.

Federal prosecutors responded by describing Bolze as a man of "stunning audacity" who should serve close to 34 years in prison.

Documents filed in U.S. District court indicate that Bolze backed off his request to be excused from his European deals after he and his lawyer read letters from victims and reviewed the evidence against him. But he continues to seek a lesser sentence based on other grounds.

Bolze, 60, pleaded guilty in November to running a Ponzi scheme that raked in $21.5 million. Besides the Europeans, his victims include close personal friends in East Tennessee. "Bolze personally traveled to Europe to pitch his Ponzi scheme," Assistant U.S. Attorney Trey Hamilton said in court pleadings. "(His) scheme to defraud had no substantive difference between foreign and domestic investors."...

Hamilton describes as "outlandish" a plan Bolze submitted for making restitution to the victims. And he noted that the seizure and planned sale of Bolze's only known major asset, his 16,000-square-foot custom built home in Gatlinburg, will be of no benefit to his investors because it was used it as collateral to secure several loans.

In their push for a maximum sentence, prosecutors filed as exhibits letters from several devastated and angry investors, whose names were redacted. "I am now 58 years of age and have been in a wheelchair disabled by polio most of my life," one investor wrote. "My mother's money was to help me with my every day living, especially as I got older."

"I personally have lost all of my life savings and all of those of my 85-year-old father," another victim wrote. "Dennis Bolze has robbed me of a contented, financially secure retirement. He has caused my elderly parents great trauma and anxiety."

May 19, 2010 at 04:54 PM | Permalink


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Although this man obviously broke the law, the comments made by of some of the people affected by his dealings, the ”investors”, sound like what we cry about all the time in our courts; I am a victim.
Instead of placing all the blame for their misfortunes and loss of savings on Mr. Bolze, perhaps they should consider taking responsibility for acting in such a greedy manner that they would invest all of their savings (not a wise move in any event) in his investment scheme.
Disclaimer: I am not an attorney nor professionally trained in the criminal “justice” system. My only involvement in the legal system comes via my son who is a federal prisoner and whose conviction has nothing to do with financial issues (except for how much they have sucked out of my family trying to defend and support him in there).
Thank you for a wonderful blog and the information and education it affords us civilians!

Posted by: Joann | May 20, 2010 3:18:18 PM

Take heart, Joann. For the past four years I've been talking to citizens stunned and profoundly disappointed by what they learned about the justice (sic) system after someone they cared about was pulverized by it.

Unfortunately, the skepticism you've developed as a consequence of your insider perspective is shared by only a small but rapidly growing number of your fellow Americans.

Personally, I feel sympathy for the folks who lost their savings. Yet I sense it would be a good deal more useful for the government to spend more of the money it lavishes on mass incarceration persuading citizens to spend at least much time investigating investment opportunities (and the folks who pitch them) as they do researching big-screen TVs before buying one.

Posted by: John K | May 20, 2010 9:45:01 PM

I love your post, thank you for sharing.

Posted by: thomas sabo | Oct 29, 2010 2:19:16 AM

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