Former Anderson County Councilman Ronnie Wilson was sentenced to 19 years in prison Tuesday for his role in a Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of $60 million.
Wilson, 65, pleaded guilty to two counts of mail fraud in July as part of a plea agreement as president of Atlantic Bullion and Coin, based in Easley.
Authorities said Wilson duped more than 900 investors across 25 states into thinking they were buying silver and making big profits. They said Wilson never bought any precious metals and was paying investors' lofty dividends with other investors' money.
He was released from jail on $1 million bond after his arrest, but he appeared in federal court in Greenville on Tuesday for sentencing.
At the hearing, Wilson said that his sins started small, but the theft eventually became so bad that he even stole money from his daughter and brother.
In addition to the 235-month prison sentence, the judge ordered Wilson to pay $57,401,009 in restitution and serve three years probation upon his release.
A crowd in the courtroom clapped when the sentence was read.
Wilson was not the only arrest in connection with the Ponzi scheme.
In early October, FBI agents arrested Wallace Lindsey Howell, 60, in connection with the same scheme. He was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. According to an indictment, Howell worked with Wilson to defraud investors of nearly $3.5 million.
To date, an attorney has taken possession of the assets of Atlantic Bullion and Coin. He will liquidate the assets and distribute the proceeds to the victims of the scheme. A website has been set up by Ashmore to assist in working with the victims and distributing Wilson's assets.
Ashmore spoke at the sentencing, saying they don't know where all the money went.
"We do not have an accounting of all the money that went through Ron Wilson's hands," Ashmore said. "We've gone through all the books and records but if a transaction is not on the books and records the ability for us to find those assets is quite a challenge."
Part of Wilson's plea allows for his sentence to be cut short if he helps in the prosecution of others and helps in the recovery of the missing money.
Copyright 2012 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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