An alleged Ponzi scheme, orchestrated by a Poway man, is said to have cost local families upwards of nine million dollars. While some people say they lost thousands of dollars that they invested with Christopher Dougherty, others say he ran off with their entire life savings.
Now, months after NBC 7 Investigates broke the story, prosecutors investigating the case have discovered the financial schemes were much larger than previously suspected.
On August 6, the San Diego County District Attorney’s office filed 50 new charges against Dougherty as new victims have come forward, bringing the total number of alleged victims from 31 victims to 49. Factoring in the new victims, prosecutors estimate Dougherty took more than $9 million dollars in the schemes.
To read the new complaint, click here.
NBC 7 Investigates was first to expose Dougherty’s alleged Ponzi scheme in March, when eleven investors said they lost money while investing with Dougherty.
The alleged victims told NBC 7 Dougherty pitched certain “financial opportunities,” including investments in organic beef ranches, housing, and cannabis cultivation.
Over the course of several years, Prosecutors allege Dougherty used money from new investors to pay existing investors who had asked for their money back. Dougherty continued to operate the alleged scheme until last year, when he filed for bankruptcy.
Prosecutors say that scheme netted Dougherty millions of dollars and used investor money to remodel his home, for trips, and to pay for his children’s college tuition.
The investigation also uncovered instances where state officials were informed of potential criminal activity but declined to take action.
One instance occurred in November of 2017, when Dougherty posed as a life insurance policyholder and tried to cash out a policy. The newly filed court documents say American Equity Life Insurance reported the potential fraud to the California Department of Insurance, however, nothing was done.
Nancy Kincaid-Goldberg, a spokesperson for the Department of Insurance confirmed the agency received a referral from American Equity Life insurance in January of 2018 and said the investigation is ongoing.
It is only the latest instance where state officials failed to act on potential illegal activity. In June, NBC 7 Investigates discovered two state agencies -- including the Department of Insurance -- neglected to warn investors of Dougherty’s criminal history and fraudulent actions. Investors say that notification could have prevented them from investing with Dougherty.
To read more about that development, click here.
Dougherty’s defense attorney stressed the public shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
“The filing of a complaint is not evidence of guilt,” said Abram Genser, Dougherty’s defense attorney. “People are presumed to be innocent, and Mr. Dougherty—despite the gravity of the charged crimes—should receive the benefit of this presumption.”
A preliminary hearing, where prosecutors will show a Judge the evidence they have gathered in their investigation of Dougherty, is set for September 24, 2019.