- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 22, 2002

CHARLOTTESVILLE (AP) A Charlottesville man has pleaded guilty to 20 felony charges in a Ponzi scheme involving as much as $70 million in investments from people tricked into pouring their money into a Bahamas-based fraud.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Terry L. Dowdell, 56, began marketing the Vavasseur Corp.'s investment program in 1998. The program promised U.S. and international investors in the company's fictitious investment program a return of about 160 percent.
"As Dowdell now admits, there were no 'trades' or 'investments' made by Vavasseur, but rather investors were paid 'profits' in a typical Ponzi scheme fashion from new investor funds diverted into Dowdell's [bank] accounts," said Stephen J. Levine, an SEC enforcement attorney.
The SEC sued Dowdell and several of his relatives and business associates last year, accusing him of profiting from selling the fraudulent investments advertised as being related to the sale of foreign bank instruments.
The Justice Department filed criminal charges, including securities fraud, money laundering and wire fraud, about a year later. Dowdell pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville, but he admitted to the SEC's fraud charges in June and agreed to turn over his assets from the scheme.
The court is in the process of trying to collect the $70 million authorities say Dowdell took from investors and spent on homes, investments, gifts, loans to family members and one Charlottesville auto-parts business, and on marketing the Ponzi scheme. The process could take years.

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