King Perry guilty, used Ponzi cash to live like royalty.
A New York man dubbed ‘King Perry’ who masterminded a long-running Ponzi scheme where he raked in more than $100million by duping investors across the country has pleaded guilty to a federal charge of fraud.
Perry Santillo, 39, pleaded guilty to fraud on Monday in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He pleaded guilty to related charges last month in Rochestor, New York.
Each charges carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
Santillo ran the scheme along with conspirators from 2008 through 2018 where he scammed more than $115million from 1,000 investors by coaxing clients to cash in their retirement accounts and invest in sham companies under their control, using the money from newer investors to repay earlier investors.
Santillo used some of the proceeds to finance his lavish lifestyle of cars, casino junkets, and houses in multiple states, according to federal securities regulators.
At the pinnacle of his ritzy lifestyle he threw himself a party at a Las Vegas club and had a song written for the fete where he was hailed as ‘King Perry’ who ‘wears a $10,000 suit everywhere he rides’, according to a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
To ensure a fresh supply of victims, Santillo and his cronies bought the businesses and client lists of a series of investment advisers and brokerages, according to prosecutors.
Over the years, they acquired investment firms in Tennessee, Ohio, Minnesota, Nevada, California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Indiana, according to court documents
Eventually the Ponzi scheme collapsed and he was charged with criminal conspiracy and fraud charges. Now Santillo will have to trade his lifestyle of expensive clothes and parties for a prison uniform behind bars.
Prosecutors say many of Santillo’s victims were elderly people who lost their life savings.
‘It is absolutely brazen theft occasioned by nothing other than greed,’ U.S. Attorney David Freed of Pennsylvania, whose office is helping prosecute Santillo said. ‘There’s a level of criminal sophistication to finding victims in the way that they did.’
‘It’s particularly insidious to me because of the method that was employed,’ he added.
Santillo and his lawyer declined to comment Monday.
Retirees Joe and Gail Malocheski, of Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, said Santillo and his sales staff persuaded them to shift their entire nest egg of $314,000 from annuities to what they later learned were phony companies.
They said Santillo, whom they met in 2016 after he bought their financial adviser’s business and client list, had appeared competent and confident.
‘We felt we would be in good hands,’ Gail, 74, said.
But the couple became suspicious when the promised dividend checks failed to show up.
Then the FBI showed up to interview them about Santillo in September 2018 where an agent told them their money was likely gone.
Joe, 75, a former union electrician who had a second career as a public school music teacher, said he suffered weeks of physical and mental anguish.
‘It was very heartbreaking, because not only was it the money for our future elderly care, but I wanted to leave something to our children,’ he said. ‘It’s heartbreaking that somebody you trusted could do that to you. All your life’s work, gone down the drain for somebody else’s enjoyment.’
‘They need to pay dearly for what they did,’ Gail added.
Santillo stole at least $13.4 million, according to federal regulators, while co-defendants in an SEC civil action allegedly stole millions more. The Ponzi scheme returned nearly $45 million to investors, but nearly $71 million more is still owed, court documents said.
Four co-defendants are named in the SEC complaint. Those four have been suspected or banned by the securities industry’s regulatory body.
Santillo is the only person in the case to face criminal charges.
Albert R. Murray Jr., an attorney who represents the Malocheskis, said it’ll be up to federal investigators ‘to discover where he’s got the money’ so he can begin to make restitution.
‘It’s his best interest because it’s going to ultimate impact his sentence,’ he said.