A man accused of fleecing his fellow Capistrano Beach church members and other investors of millions by promising them returns of 60% or higher was convicted Thursday of fraud charges by a federal jury in Los Angeles.
James B.A. Niven persuaded about 170 investors, many of them members of Calvary Chapel, to invest $7.7 million in his company, but after less than five hours of deliberation, the jury agreed with prosecutors who said that Niven spent the money on himself.
Niven was found guilty on all 24 mail and wire fraud charges and two counts of acting as an unregistered securities broker.
Niven, 48, is a native of Scotland. He faces a maximum sentence of 130 years when he returns before U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson on Dec. 18.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Carolyn Kubota said that Niven paid off old investors with money deposited by new investors. Because earlier investors saw their accounts appear to grow quickly, they seldom asked to withdraw their money until the stock market crash in October, 1987, Kubota explained.