Former Financial Investment Advisor Who Led Ponzi Scheme Sentenced To State Prison

A former Poway financial investment advisor was sentenced to 12 years in state prison on Wednesday for carrying out a $ 7.75 million Ponzi scheme that scammed 49 victims, including 31 seniors, according to the Insurance Department of State.

Christopher Dougherty, 47, pleaded guilty in March to three counts each of securities fraud and robbery.

Leveraging his personal and professional relationships with longtime clients and friends, Dougherty initiated “private investments” in businesses he owned, authorities said. One investment opportunity he put on the table was a 100-acre “organic” cattle ranch at Alpine and a marijuana growing project on the property.

Instead of using the funds he raised to generate legitimate returns, Dougherty mixed the money, using the funds to pay “profits” and return money when investors complained. He also used funds for personal expenses, including renovating his home, travel and school fees, the state’s insurance department said.

Dougherty met many of his victims as a former investment advisor for San Diego and Imperial County school districts. His victims were unaware that the Insurance Department revoked his license in 2013 after he was convicted of embezzling approximately $ 84,000 from the local Tecolote Youth Baseball League.

The Ponzi scheme, which lasted from 2015 to 2018, collapsed after enough victims started demanding their money and Dougherty was unable to attract new investors or solicit more funds for victims. He filed for bankruptcy in October 2018.

Investors who started receiving bad checks filed complaints with the Sheriff’s Department in 2018, triggering investigations that eventually merged with investigations by state and federal authorities.

The large pool of victims was identified during Dougherty’s bankruptcy proceedings. A 70-year-old couple lost their $ 1.2 million in retirement savings, authorities said in April 2019 when Dougherty was charged under the program.

Dougherty was arrested in April 2019 and remained in custody while his case was pending in Superior Court.

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