Man who scammed people of $14 million using unscrupulous means sentenced to 11 years in prison

A Santa Barbara man who used Ponzi scheme tactics to trick people into thinking that they were buying annuities from Swiss insurance companies as he scammed them of $14 million has been sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.

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Per the Justice Department, Stanley Blumenfeld Jr., U.S. District Judge ruled that Darrell Arnold Aviss, 64, must pay $ 14,486,169 in restitution and also forfeit his $4 million Santa Barbara home.

Aviss, who also owes over $3 million in federal income tax, was remanded in federal custody by Judge Blumenfeld, after describing him as “cruel, callous and self-absorbed” and adding, “the devastation in this case is real,” during the court hearing.

On June 28, Aviss entered a guilty plea to 21 felonies, including six counts of willful failure to disclose foreign bank and financial accounts, six counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering, five counts of engaging in financial transactions involving criminally derived property exceeding $10,000 and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Darrell Arnold Aviss, Santa Barbara man operated his Ponzi scheme for about a decade.

From 2012 until at least the summer of 2020, Aviss operated his Ponzi scheme, taking money from people who intended to buy annuities from insurance firms situated in Switzerland.

In certain cases, Aviss informed victims that the Swiss annuities would pay interest rates of between 5% and 7%. He assured them that the annuities were safe and secure.

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Aviss arranged for his victims to receive fake statements indicating the alleged value of the annuities, which the bogus documents claimed was rising over time.

Aviss took more than $14 million ftom his victims, majority of whom were elderly (most were over 60), even from a cancer patient of whom he defrauded $400,000. To keep the scheme going, some money was given back to the victims as ROI.

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What he did with the money he stole

Aviss was living in bliss instead of buying annuities from insurance companies in Switzerland, which he made his victims believe. He spent the victims’ money on himself and his opulent lifestyle.

He spent it on things like Ponzi payments to victims, mortgage payments, leases on fancy cars and watches, trips to Monaco, more than $170,000 in nightclub purchases in Santa Barbara, and 20 tickets to a U2 concert and after-party, among other things.

In the sentencing memorandum, the prosecution stated that Aviss had “basically been living a life of pure crime” for about ten years.

Per the financial records and his statements to the probation officer, Aviss has no real job, no legit source of income but has been “living off of the money he stole from his victims, including pensioners,” since at least 2012.

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Aviss also evaded paying more than $3 million in income taxes. He is to spend 11 years behind bars. Is this a soft sentence for the Santa Barbara man?

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