SACRAMENTO -- A man pleaded guilty today for his role in a mammoth investment fraud scheme that brought in $80 million from more than 300 investors, according to federal authorities.
Anthony Vassallo, 33, of Folsom, is facing up to 20 years in prison for wire fraud with fines and restitution.
"Anthony Vassallo and his co-conspirators lied to hundreds of people and took in more than $80 million based on those lies. Vassallo's victims came from every walk of life and included his friends and family," stated U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner.
According to court documents, between April 2006 and March 2009, Vassallo and others operated Equity Investment, Management, and Trading Inc. in Folsom, a hedge fund investment company purporting to use a computer program designed by Vassallo to time the stock market.
Federal officials said Vassallo promised investors an annual rate of return of 36 percent with little risk of loss. In fact, Vassallo and others operated EIMT as a Ponzi scheme using new investor funds to make "dividend" payments to previous investors, to make risky investments without investor knowledge or consent, and to fund his lifestyle, according to federal authorities.
Although Vassallo lost the investors' money and ceased trading in securities in about September 2007, federal officials stated that he lulled investors into keeping their funds on deposit through December 2008 by fabricating investment information, forging trading and bank documents, and reporting positive returns. Neither Vassallo nor EIMT was registered with the Securities Exchange Commission.
Co-conspirator Kenneth Kenitzer, 66, of Pleasanton, California, has previously pleaded guilty in a related case and is awaiting sentencing.