WESTLAKE VILLAGE — The owner of an oil and gas investment firm who allegedly bilked $9 million out of investors was indicted Wednesday on charges of securities fraud, mail fraud and money laundering, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
A federal grand jury returned a 29-count indictment against Joseph T. Sevitski, 49, of Malibu. If convicted, Sevitski faces up to 485 years in prison and a $14-million fine, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Barbara M. Scheper, who is prosecuting the case.
The indictment charges Sevitski, owner and president of Sevitski and Associates based in Westlake Village, with running a Ponzi investment scheme between 1988 and 1991, inducing hundreds of investors in California and other states to invest millions in oil and gas leases.
According to the indictment, Sevitski promised guaranteed monthly returns on investments as high as 140%, based on the sale of oil and gas from his projects.
Scheper said investors who received payments were actually paid with money from other investors. In addition, Sevitski used investor funds to run his firm, support his family, buy new cars and repay credit cards, she said.
On average, investors are said to have put nearly $30,000 each into the scam, but authorities believe some put in much more. One Southern California couple said they invested $250,000--their entire savings.
The indictment was the result of more than four years of investigation by the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI, Scheper said.