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Idaho Falls man charged in Ponzi scheme

Published: Sunday, May 29 2011 11:57 p.m. MDT

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho — Federal prosecutors have filed wire fraud and money laundering charges against an eastern Idaho man accused in a Ponzi scheme.

The charges were filed against Daren Palmer, of Idaho Falls, Wednesday after a more than two-year investigation by the FBI, the Post Register reports.

Palmer has already been ordered to pay some $90 million in restitution and fines in the case.

Prosecutors believe Palmer operated a Ponzi scheme dating to at least 2002 that fraudulently took $76.8 million from about 68 investors. Prosecutors say Palmer used money invested with Trigon Group for personal use, including paying himself a salary of up to $35,000 a month.

Last year, two financial regulatory agencies won civil suits against Palmer, who is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday in Pocatello.

The Post Register was unable to reach Palmer or his attorney for comment.

Palmer, who has not been arrested, is expected to be arraigned next Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Pocatello.

"We're pleased that it's moving toward resolution," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Haycock.

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission won civil lawsuits against Palmer.

But this is the first time Palmer has been criminally charged in what investigators have called the largest securities fraud case in Idaho history.

If convicted, Palmer faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud, along with another 10 years in prison if he is found guilty of money laundering.

Most of the people who invested with Palmer live in eastern Idaho included friends, family members and neighbors, according to authorities.

Palmer's consistent guarantee of high returns should have raised suspicions among the investors, said Wayne Klein, a receiver appointed to seize and liquidate Palmer's assets in order to repay investors who were swindled during the scam.

"Anyone who believes the notion they can get a high rate of return with minimal or no risk ... (should) understand that is almost certainly a fraud," Klein said.

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