Described as a financial serial killer, JOEL NATHAN WARD, 49, of Turlock, California, was sentenced to nine years in prison for masterminding a Ponzi scheme in which nearly 100 investors lost over $11 million. WARD was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $11,275,501.53 and to serve three years of supervised release after the completion of his prison sentence. He was remanded into custody immediately following the sentencing hearing.
This case is the product of an extensive joint investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation Division. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the federal agency that regulates commodity futures and options markets in the United States, has noted the sharp rise and increasing complexity of foreign currency exchange (“forex”) trading scams. WARD, a frequent
commentator and seminar speaker on forex trading, ran an elaborate forex trading scam through an investment fund he controlled called the Joel Nathan ForexFund.
Now as a white collar crime speaker I must admit, anyone can make wrong choices. It’s ashamed that Ward used his speaking skills to further perpertrate a fraud of this magnitude.
According to material presented at sentencing, WARD offered investors the opportunity to invest in the foreign exchange interbank “spot” market through his fund. Between early 2003 and November 2006, WARD took in over $15 million from investors. Of that, about 85% was diverted to other purposes, including promoting WARD’s business interests, salary, travel and other expenses, and purchasing a foreign exchange trading school in Sacramento called Learn:Forex. WARD also used about $3.7 million to make “Ponzi” payments back to investors who sought to withdraw funds. According to trading records, he only actually traded about $2 million, and lost virtually all of it in the foreign exchange market. WARD concealed his diversion of funds by sending false account statements to investors purporting to show trading profits. He also defrauded investors in a second scheme relating to a purported real estate investment project in Mississippi. Nearly 100 investors lost a total of over $11.3 million.
“Joel Nathan Ward earned every minute of the nine-year sentence the court imposed. He brazenly defrauded scores of victims out of over $11 million,” stated US Attorney Scott. Several victims spoke during the sentencing hearing, telling the judge about the financial devastation caused by WARD’s conduct, and their hopes for restitution. In sentencing WARD today, Judge Burrell stated that WARD “defrauded many people. He caused losses over $11 million, and many investors suffered devastating losses.”
The defendant had proposed that he be allowed to remain out of prison while he attempted to generate funds to repay investors. In rejecting that plan, Judge Burrell stated that the “magnitude of his crimes, the manner in which the economic crimes were committed and concealed, and the duration of the criminal activities” required a lengthy prison sentence.
Every choice has a consequence. Ward’s choices have resulted in a substantial prison sentence. And, having spent time in federal prison (not something I am proud of), the time Ward spends will be life changing. Not only will he become a number, lose his identity, and have little to no ability to earn money, he will emerge with limited opportunity to make restitution.
Today, I speak nationwide on (1) fraud in business, (2) how to avoid fraud in your company and (3) how business ethics can improve your financial performance.
One thing is for sure – You do reap what you sow! Ward has come to learn that as he is now sleeping on a prison bed.
If you know fell for Ward’s ponzi scheme and are willing to share the effect you loses have had on you…feel free to comment.