Rebirth of Reason

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Ponzi Schemes Not Limited to Wall Street
Posted by Luke Setzer on 1/05, 7:46am
I wrote that headline myself, changing it from "Grand jury indicts fraud suspect," for reasons that will become obvious.

I learned over the holidays that one of my old high school classmates from Bunker Hill High School in the tiny town of Claremont, North Carolina (population ~1100) recently underwent arrest for running a $25 million Ponzi scheme. From a local newspaper, the Hickory Daily Record, comes this December 9 story:

NEWTON - A Catawba County grand jury indicted J.V. Huffman Jr. on eight charges Monday.

Huffman was indicted on four felony counts of securities fraud and four felony counts of obtaining property by false pretense.

The indictments were based on the same four people who sparked the N.C. Secretary of State's initial investigation earlier this year.

Vickie Drum invested $40,000 with Huffman and Biltmore Financial Group Inc. from March 29 through Huffman's Nov. 7 arrest. Martha Fox invested $101,701.41 from Aug. 4, 2005, to his arrest. Gordon Fox invested $118,000, from March 17, 2004, to his arrest. Robert Crawley invested $449,027 from Dec. 31, 2007, to his arrest.

Huffman is accused of lying to neighbors, family and friends for 17 years, telling them he bought and sold securities, as he took millions of dollars from them to pay for his lavish lifestyle in a Ponzi scheme. About 500 people invested $25 million with Huffman's company, Biltmore Financial Group Inc., beginning in 1991 and ending Nov. 7 with his arrest.

The Securities and Exchange Commission alleges the money was used on rental properties, buying a $1 million recreational vehicle, an Aston Martin, renovations to his sprawling home on Wishing Well Lane in Claremont and going on luxurious vacations, among other things.

General Statute 14100 states that if more than $100,000 was involved in the offenses, the class of felony is more severe and the degree of punishment could potentially be greater, according to the clerk of court office.

Huffman's next court appearance in Superior Court has not yet been set, said Al Jean Bogle, clerk of Superior Court.

This story left me in shock, awe, and dismay. It broke my heart. My father tells me that an aunt and uncle of mine invested some money with this man as well. I knew this man and his wife, Gilda, back in 1982 when I was a sophomore and they a cute senior couple. They seemed very much in love and a good match, so I felt no surprise when they married right out of high school. He served as the school photographer as well and drove a school bus while she filled various leadership roles at our small school of a few hundred ninth to twelfth graders.

I am at a loss of words to express my disappointment in a man who showed promise as a reasonably intelligent, educated human being. I feel badly for their four children who will have to suffer for the crimes of their father (and, probably, their mother as well). An online town forum currently seeths with the rage of the locals at this man as you can imagine.

Reading about Wall Street billionaires who run Ponzi schemes never strikes one as closely as learning about one's neighbor pulling the same dishonest stunt.

Yes, I know he remains "innocent until proven guilty" but the overwhelming evidence against him makes a conviction certain.
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