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Man sentenced to 90 years in OC ponzi scheme

January 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A San Juan Capistrano man was sentenced to 90 years and eight months in prison for ripping off 125 elderly victims in a "Ponzi" scheme. It took four days to sentence 51-year-old Jeffrey Gordon Butler, as the judge listened to about 40 victims in the case. Some of the testimony was recorded by those who died before the trial. Butler was convicted of 693 felony counts in the fraud case involving more than $11 million in investments.

Prosecutors say he sold more than 300 promissory notes or stocks without getting a license from the state. They say in 2000, he moved the money to a telecommunications company located in Grenada without telling his investors. Some were told it was a retirement account investment.

When Butler's Ponzi scheme ran out of money, he sent his victims a letter falsely claiming that Hurricane Ivan had delayed payments. Prosecutors say Butler met many of his victims while running Senior Information Services, which was supposed to help seniors with living wills and trusts. They say most of the elderly victims lost their entire life savings.

"Many of Jeffrey Butler's victims had trouble believing that he was capable of stealing their life's savings. He stole more than money from the people who trusted him. Jeffrey Butler also stole his victims' dignity, independence, and dreams," said Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.

Butler's wife, Peggy, was also convicted in June 2009 of filing false tax returns. She was sentenced to one year in jail and seven years on probation. Prosecutors say the couple spent lavishly on themselves, living in an expensive home and taking many vacations.

It will be 42 years before Butler is even eligible for a parole hearing. A restitution hearing is scheduled for January 29.

In a Ponzi scheme, investors are offered high, short-term returns, but instead of generating legitimate profits, the money is kept or used to repay earlier investors.

City News Service contributed to this report.