A Roseville man has pleaded guilty to his participation in a Ponzi scheme involving nearly $3 million. Barry Winnett, 49, admitted to his involvement in the investment scam following an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service.
Following a plea deal with prosecutors, Mr. Winnett acknowledged that he pocketed approximately $160,000 in the alleged Ponzi scheme. Mr. Winnett also admitted to sending an unnamed co-conspirator nearly $565,000.
Court files reveal that Mr. Winnett defrauded investors out of $2,975,352 by posing as an escrow officer and leading investors to believe that their money would be used for real estate transactions. He allegedly used part of the money to pay off earlier investors, as well as benefit himself.
Investigators have not released the identity of Mr. Winnett’s co-conspirator.
The investigation is part of a nationwide campaign by U.S. Attorney Eric Holder called “Operation Broken Trust.” The program was created to root out investment scams.
“Cheating investors out of their earnings and savings is no longer a safe business plan - we will use every tool at our disposal to find you, to stop you, and to bring you to justice,” Attorney Holder said in a release.
Mr. Winnett, who appeared in court on Thursday, December 9, 2010, is expected back on January 27th. Without the recommendations posed by prosecutors, he could face a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.