Jamaican man pleads guilty in U.S. to Ponzi scheme

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida (Reuters) – A Jamaican man admitted in U.S. federal court on Tuesday to swindling thousands of Florida and Caribbean island investors out of more than $220 million.

David Smith, 41, pleaded guilty in Orlando, Florida, to multiple counts of wire fraud and money laundering.

He could face decades in prison for defrauding more than 6,000 investors during his three-year Ponzi scheme, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. No sentencing date has been set.

A Ponzi scheme typically pays returns to early investors with money from subsequent investors. Investors are typically shown fraudulent statements reflecting extravagant but nonexistent returns.

Authorities said Smith billed his companies as private investment clubs that could reap investors high returns with low risk through foreign currency trading.

But he never traded their money and instead used it to finance his own lavish lifestyle, including a $2 million home in the Turks and Caicos Islands and a down payment on a Lear jet he used for frequent travel.

He also laundered approximately $128 million to conceal the wire fraud, authorities said.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors will not charge Smith’s wife with federal offenses related to the scheme, and Smith has agreed to pay full restitution to investors.

Last year, Smith was sentenced to more than six years in prison in Turks and Caicos on related fraud and conspiracy charges, authorities said.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Todd Eastham)

Jamaican man pleads guilty in U.S. to Ponzi scheme