Investment manager charged with massive Ponzi scheme

By Danny Pollock The Associated Press
Wednesday March 27, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Investment manager Reed Slatkin was charged Tuesday with orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme in which he solicited more than $593 million from about 800 investors over a 15-year period, federal prosecutors said. 

Slatkin, 53, co-founded Internet company EarthLink Inc. and separately managed investments for celebrities, online executives and socialites. 

Slatkin agreed to plead guilty to the charges, acknowledging that he is responsible for at least $254 million in losses, Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said in a prepared statement. 

A federal bankruptcy court trustee said in December that Slatkin knowingly ran the scheme that funneled money from new investors to old investors who had been contributing funds since 1986. 

“Mr. Slatkin’s agreement with the government is a reflection of his decision to accept full responsibility for his conduct and move forward by continuing his collaborations with both government authorities and his creditors,” said attorney Frederick D. Friedman, who represents Slatkin. 

Slatkin is accused of five counts of mail fraud, three counts of wire fraud, six counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice during an investigation conducted by the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

In a statement of facts contained in the plea agreement, Slatkin said he portrayed himself as a successful financial adviser and provided investors with account statements that purported to show that investors were achieving above-market returns on their investments. 

However, Slatkin generally did not buy securities as he told investors. Instead, he allegedly provided victims with false account statements that showed the fabricated returns, Mrozek said. 

An arraignment date in U.S. District Court has not yet been set. Slatkin has agreed to surrender to authorities when he is arraigned. 

The 15 charges carry a maximum possible penalty of 105 years in federal prison and fines of up to $3.75 million. 

Slatkin resigned from EarthLink’s board last April 26 and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 1. 

Last year, he invoked his 5th Amendment right when he faced about 100 former clients and lawyers for the first time at a bankruptcy hearing involving the claims. 

He did, however, make a short statement before being excused from the proceedings. 

“I just want to say that I’m here today, that I’m not hiding,” Slatkin said “And I just wanted you to know that.” 

The statement was met with groans from those who attended. 

An ongoing analysis by court-appointed bankruptcy trustee R. Todd Neilson identified Slatkin assets of less than $45 million last year. 

The FBI raided Slatkin’s Santa Barbara-area home and offices in May as part of the fraud investigation.