Woman Sentenced In Ponzi Scheme

Tyler Morning Telegraph/December 16, 2008

A 51-year-old Canton woman who spent nearly a year on the lam after she was convicted for her involvement in a Ponzi scheme that bilked church ministries and religious organizations out of more than $61 million has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Cynthia Faye Setser was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn last week to four years in prison for failing to appear in court and five years in prison for her involvement in the conspiracy case. She was ordered to pay restitution of $61.6 million.

Mrs. Setser was indicted in 2003 and pleaded guilty to securities fraud on March 16, 2006. She was allowed to remain out of jail on bond but failed to appear for her sentencing hearing on Jan. 16, 2007.

Mrs. Setser fled to Indiana, Georgia and finally Florida until she was captured on Dec. 5, 2007. She pleaded guilty to failure to appear.

Her husband Gregory Earl Setser was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his involvement in the scheme. His sister Deborah S. Setser was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison and Joshua Nathan Setser was sentenced to two years in prison.

IPIC Investments, Inc. was initially located in Canton but later was based in California.

The defendants were officers or employers of the company. Two other employees were also charged in the case, but a jury found them not guilty.

Beginning in 2000 in North Texas, the defendants devised a scheme to induce people to enter into investment contracts with IPIC.

They targeted churches, ministries and religious organizations and their pastors, leaders and members and represented to investors that IPIC was a highly successful import/export business.

The investment programs involved the importation of merchandise for resale in the United States and other countries, from which IPIC would pay 50 percent of the profits from the product sales to investors, according to the indictment. A Web site was established to solicit investors and promised a 90 to 180 day return-on-investment of at least 25 to 50 percent.

Invested funds were not used to buy and sell goods but were converted to the defendants' personal use. Payments made to some investors were made with money received from other investors, the indictment states.

Court documents show the defendants bought three residences in California and one in Florida, as well as a helicopter, yacht and airplane in 2002 and 2003 for $4.9 million.

The defendants also allegedly defrauded victims in a real estate investment scheme that involved buying and selling real estate.

The defendants told investors they were buying houses from homeowners facing foreclosure, then would resell or lease the homes back to the homeowners to help the homeowners while also generating substantial profits, according to the indictment. The defendants told investors they would receive a monthly return of about 6.75 percent on their investment and the payments made to some investors was actually money received from other investors.

The defendants only bought five homes in California and two were being occupied by members of the Setser family and the investors' money was being used for the defendant's personal funds, according to the indictment.

Court documents list victims from at least 10 states and two other countries losing thousands of dollars per person or organization.

The defendants were charged in a 22-count indictment alleging conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, three counts of mail fraud, one count of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and six counts of money laundering.

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