Arizonan faces 37 counts in investment scheme

The Carefree man allegedly told 300 people he would put their $41 million into a European trading program.

The Tucson Citizen / January 9, 2000

PHOENIX - An Arizona businessman was indicted Wednesday in one of the biggest dollar fraud cases ever prosecuted by the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

Benjamin Franklin Cook III was charged with 37 counts of racketeering, fraud and theft in connection with an investment scheme run by his company, Dennel Finance Ltd. The indictment alleges that Cook defrauded more than 300 investors of a total of $41 million.

If convicted, the suburban Carefree resident could be sentenced to several hundred years in prison.

Five government agencies investigated Cook's plan, which promised investors that their money would be placed in a European Bank Trading Program. They allege he used the money to buy cars, airplanes, a house and other real estate properties. Cook also donated $1.8 million to the Church of Scientology.

"The indictment alleges the worst kind of fraud," Attorney General Janet Napolitano said in a statement Wednesday.

"In some instances, these victims put up their life savings in the hopes of making a little extra cash to make their retirement dollars go further." Her office has seized $11 million of Cook's assets, which will be used to reimburse investors.

Cook is in a Texas detention facility on federal contempt charges after ignoring court orders in a lawsuit brought against him by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

U.S. marshals arrested him last October in a Las Vegas casino.

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