Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Laie woman defrauded
victims of almost $67M

Montez Ottley is found guilty
for the second time

A Laie woman was found guilty yesterday of defrauding nearly $67 million from thousands of investors in a "Cayman Islands Investment" scam.

It was the second time that Montez Salamasina Ottley, 59, has been convicted in U.S. District Court on federal charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, structuring financial transactions and conspiracy to defraud the government. The earlier conviction was overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Visiting U.S. District Judge Manuel Real also found Ottley guilty yesterday of a forfeiture count that requires her to give up $915,000 seized by federal authorities.

Federal prosecutors characterized Ottley as one of two people who came up with the Ponzi scheme that attracted 5,000 investors in Hawaii, American Samoa, the mainland and Japan. Investors were promised 8 percent returns weekly over 13 weeks for a minimum investment of $1,000.

Witnesses called by the government testified that interest payments were paid out of money collected from new investors. The scheme ran for more than a year until it was shut down in October 1998.

Ottley was convicted in February 2002 and sentenced to 26 years in prison. The Court of Appeals reversed the conviction last May and ordered a new trial, saying the lower court should have allowed her to serve as her own attorney.

Real, who also presided over her first trial, indicated he did not believe she was competent to represent herself. At her new trial in September, Ottley acted as her own lawyer.

Yesterday, Ottley renewed earlier protests that Real had no jurisdiction over her and had no authority to order a new trial. She called federal prosecutors and their agents thugs and hoodlums, saying they lied, stole and perjured testimonies.

She said she will appeal her conviction and intends to seek reparations from Real and others to pay back investors.

Real denied her request to be free pending her sentencing and appeal.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Butrick said Ottley's statements yesterday show she has not accepted any responsibility for what happened. "It's very clear she blames the government for her failed Ponzi scheme."

Paul Lazzaro, Ottley's partner in the investment scheme, pleaded guilty to similar charges. He is awaiting sentencing.


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