A Chatsworth man was sentenced Monday to 6½ years in federal prison for defrauding victims -- mostly friends and family members -- out of nearly $13.5 million by pretending that their money was financing a wholesale business that distributed NASCAR merchandise.
Eliott Jay Dresher, 66, was indicted on federal mail fraud charges in December 2009 in connection with the Ponzi scheme, which he operated from 1998 until October 2009, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kerry O'Neill.
Along with the prison term, U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ordered Dresher to pay about $8.8 million in restitution, O'Neill said.
According to the indictment, Dresher solicited money from 26 families, many of whom were his relatives or close friends, promising that their funds would be used to finance a business in which he purchased NASCAR apparel and sold the merchandise to retailers such as Costco and Ross.
As part of the scheme, Dresher guaranteed substantial monthly returns, typically between 20 and 25 percent every six months, federal prosecutors said.
In his guilty plea, Dresher admitted he did not really operate such a business and that any funds paid to investors were Ponzi payments that came from victims' principal investments. Dresher's scheme collapsed when he was unable to make payments to all his investors, prosecutors said.