New York City lawyer Charles Bennett, who attempted to drown himself last month after leaving a suicide note confessing to fleecing friends and family out of millions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme, is now facing federal wire and securities fraud charges.
The former corporate lawyer was arrested Friday in the hospital where he had been recovering since his November 3 suicide attempt.
The Associated Press reports that Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Lester said Bennett left a 16-page, signed suicide note confessing to running a Ponzi scheme since at least 2008, cheating at least 30 people out of an estimated $5 million dollars.
He then jumped into the Hudson River, attempting to avoid prosecution by taking his life. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately for Bennett, his suicide attempt failed when police divers rescued him.
After his rescue, police found a suicide note titled “A Sad Ending to My Life.” In the note, Bennett confessed to soliciting money from others to meet his own financial obligations, admitting that he then used the money to pay investors and maintain his lifestyle.
“I have systematically over the course of five years or so perpetrated a huge Ponzi scheme,” he wrote. “I managed to completely squander the hard earned money that my family and dear friends managed to set aside over the course of their working lives.”
According to the Daily Mail, one of the tactics he used to lure investors was to say that prominent individuals, including former New York governor Elliot Spitzer, had signed up. Spitzer denies he was an investor, however, and civil charges are being brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the lies.
In a statement, Spitzer called Bennett’s actions “a horrific act by someone who pretended to have a relationship that did not exist and who lured unwitting investors into a Ponzi scheme.”
The Feds don’t take such actions lightly either; the Inquisitr reports that Bernie Madoff, one of the most famous perpetrators of a Ponzi scheme, was sentenced to life in prison for bilking investors out of millions of dollars.
In a remote court appearance conducted by phone from Bennett’s hospital room, Lester argued unsuccessfully that the lawyer be held without bail.
However, Bennett’s attorney, Julia Gatto, made a passionate plea that he not be shackled to his bed, saying he had suffered from anxiety and depression since the suicide attempt, and that he was remorseful.
“I’m worried that this man is going to have a terrible setback,” she told the judge. “I can see my client’s blood pressure rising, his breathing becoming more shallow.”
According to Gatto, Bennett plans to await trial in Minnesota with his mother, but Lester is against letting him leave.
“This defendant has already demonstrated he’s willing to take a great risk — some might say he took the ultimate risk — to avoid facing prosecution by attempting to commit suicide,” she said.
[Image via New York Post]