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Accused swindler pleads not guilty in Ponzi scheme


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POSTED: Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Accused swindler David E. Ruskjer paid his investors more than $5 million, and anybody who loaned him money got exactly what they were promised, his lawyer, Michael Green, said yesterday in federal court.

“;No one got fleeced,”; Green said.

Ruskjer, 58, pleaded not guilty to money laundering and mail and wire fraud yesterday for operating what the government said was a $16 million Ponzi scheme from his home on Kauai.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Les Osborne Jr. said Ruskjer collected $16 million from more than 100 people and deposited $8 million, of which the government seized just $4 million.

He asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Kobayashi to order Ruskjer held in custody without the opportunity for bail pending trial because there is at least $8 million unaccounted for with which Ruskjer could flee the country. He said Ruskjer has business interests in Asia and frequently travels overseas.

Green said Ruskjer has not fled even though he has had ample opportunity and offered to surrender his passport.

Kobayashi allowed Ruskjer to remain free pending trial in January but ordered him to sign a $50,000 bond backed up by a property he owns in Lihue.

Ruskjer operated the Ponzi scheme from September 2004 to December last year, according to a grand jury indictment returned last month. In addition to the charges, it seeks the forfeiture of money the government seized from his bank and stock trading accounts and items he allegedly bought with investors' money, including a condominium in Koloa, a car and two motorcycles.

The government also said Ruskjer spent $578,208 of investors' money on airline tickets, restaurants, goods and services in Hawaii, on the mainland and in Asia and took $646,395 in cash withdrawals.

Ruskjer promised investors guaranteed returns through stock-option trading, the indictment said. But because he is not a licensed stock broker, he instructed investors to deposit their money in his bank account, for which he gave them promissory notes. Ruskjer used about half of the investors' money to trade stock options. But because he lost more money than he made, he used money from new investors to pay off earlier investors, the indictment said.