Defendant absconded for nearly 2 years before he was apprehended in Greece and extradited to US
FORT WORTH, Texas – A north Texas man was sentenced Wednesday to 17 1/2 years in federal prison and ordered to pay about $8.6 million in restitution for running a Ponzi scheme that defrauded dozens of investors of millions of dollars.
Christopher Blackwell, 34, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in July 2011, fled to Greece while he was awaiting sentencing. He was recently apprehended and extradited to the U.S.
This investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldaña, of the Northern District of Texas, said: "I commend the tremendous coordination and efforts of an international law enforcement team, including Homeland Security Investigations, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Marshals Service, Interpol and the Greek authorities that located this fugitive and returned him to the U.S. to face justice."
"After pleading guilty to his Ponzi scheme that cheated dozens of people out of more than $8 million, Mr. Blackwell hoped that he could hide from punishment by fleeing to Greece," said David M. Marwell, special agent in charge of HSI Dallas. "However, by working closely with our worldwide HSI attaché offices, and the Hellenic National Police, we used the 'long arm of the law' to bring Mr. Blackwell to justice."
Acting U.S. Marshal Benjamin E. Kates of the Northern District of Texas, said, "Bringing Christopher Blackwell to justice is an excellent example of law enforcement cooperation."
Following his plea in July 2011, Blackwell, who at the time was a Colleyville, Texas, resident, absconded to Greece. On April 16, 2013, he was arrested on the island of Corfu in western Greece by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Athens and the Hellenic National Police. On Nov. 11, 2013, Blackwell was extradited from Greece by the U.S. Marshals Service to the Northern District of Texas.
Blackwell operated the Ponzi scheme, which caused about $8.6 million in losses to investors, from about January 2007 to mid-June 2011, when he was arrested in Phoenix on charges outlined in a criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Texas. At the Jan. 30 sentencing hearing, an HSI special agent testified about the severe financial impact of the fraud on the lives of the dozens of victims.
According to the factual resume filed in the case, Blackwell told potential investors that their money would be invested in specific business ventures. However, when he received money from them, he did not invest those funds, but instead used the majority of the money for his own personal benefit. Blackwell also occasionally used some of the funds received from new investors to make small payments to earlier investors. These payments were designed to convince investors that their money was generating a profit. Not all investors received payments from Blackwell, and many lost all of the money they invested. Blackwell recruited investors from a variety of geographic areas.