The co-founder, chief investment officer, and chief risk and compliance officer of a Connecticut-based investment fund was sentenced by a federal judge to 48 months in prison and ordered to pay back more than $25 million to investors he defrauded as part of a “Ponzi-like” scheme.
Jason Rhodes operated Sentinel Growth Fund Management from 2013-16. The 48-year-old was charged in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York with securities fraud, wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, and conspiracy charges in connection with a scheme to defraud more than 25 investors of $25 million.
Rhodes was sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein.
“Jason Rhodes defrauded investors in the fund he co-founded of more than $25 million through years of lies and deceit,” said Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “This conduct is made even worse by the fact that Rhodes served as the chief investment officer and chief risk officer of Sentinel, roles in which it was his direct responsibility to safeguard investor funds.”
Rhodes told investors he would be investing their money by purchasing securities. Instead, he diverted those funds for other purposes, including paying off an early investor with later investment funds in a Ponzi-like manner, federal prosecutors said. He also diverted funds to a trucking company he owned with his wife; to pay an unrelated $1 million settlement filed against him and a co-conspirator; and for personal expenses including a resort stay in Dubai and for a luxury timeshare vacation club, prosecutors said.
Court documents indicate three co-conspirators pled guilty to related charges in 2017: Sentinel Co-Founder Mark Varacchi for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, securities fraud, and wire fraud (pursuant to a cooperation agreement); Steven Simmons for conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud; and an unnamed co-conspirator for committing securities fraud.
Prosecutors say Rhodes created multiple false account statements that said investors’ money had been invested in securities, when, in fact, it had been diverted for other purposes. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to forfeit $25.5 million to pay restitution to his victims and will also serve three years of supervised release after serving his sentence.