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Suspect in Swindling of Elderly Pleads Not Guilty

November 03, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

A Laguna Niguel man accused of bilking elderly Orange County residents out of $10 million pleaded not guilty Monday in federal court in Santa Ana.

Lance Van Alstyne, 31, was charged with 19 counts of mail fraud, three counts of money laundering and three counts of using illegally obtained funds in financial transactions. Trial is set for Dec. 22.

If convicted, Van Alstyne faces fines of up to $6.25 million and a maximum of 95 years in prison on the fraud charges; and 60 and 30 years, respectively, on the charges of money laundering and using illegal funds.

He is accused of selling investors promissory notes and interests in relatively worthless oil and gas partnerships from April 1992 through December 1994. Prosecutors called the arrangement a classic Ponzi scheme, in which money from later investors is used to pay early participants, to give the illusion the investments are paying off and to attract more victims.

A federal grand jury indictment handed down Sept. 30 alleged that Van Alstyne spent most of the money on himself or to perpetuate the scheme.

In July, the National Assn. of Securities Dealers fined Van Alstyne $95,000 and barred him from associating with its members, saying he managed a securities business without proper registration and sold unregistered securities.

Investors in the oil and gas partnerships named him in a lawsuit they filed in July seeking recovery of their money and unspecified punitive damages.

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