Arrest Made in Local Ponzi Scheme Investigation

Dozens of San Diegans claim they lost millions of dollars to Christopher Dougherty, accused of orchestrating an investment scam.

Sheriff’s detectives arrested a Poway man accused of running an investment scam that allegedly stole millions of dollars from at least 35 local investors. 

Christopher Dougherty, 46, was arrested Thursday morning for multiple felonies including grand theft, elder abuse, and securities fraud, according to Sgt.Karl Miller with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Financial Crimes Unit. 

As of Thursday afternoon, Dougherty was in custody at the county jail, with bail set at $5 million. 

“If his lips were moving, he’s lying,” Sharon Taylor said about Dougherty. 

Taylor and her husband told NBC 7 Investigates that Dougherty misspent a significant portion of their life savings totaling $340,000. 

“It was part of our retirement, and also money from the refinancing of our house,” Taylor said. “He’s never been able to tell us where our money is.” 

Taylor said Dougherty once told her the couple’s money was invested in a trucking business.

“But it wasn’t in a trucking business, and now, we just don’t know where it is."

Sgt. Miller said the Sheriff’s Department, District Attorney’s office, SEC, and the California Department of Insurance have been investigating Dougherty since January. 

Court records reviewed by NBC 7 Investigates allege that Dougherty ran a textbook example of a “Ponzi Scheme” that used "new investment money to pay existing investors" and created the "false impression" that Dougherty’s clients were making money on their investment. 

Dougherty told his clients their money was invested in various local businesses, including a 100-acre cattle ranch in Alpine. 

In response to questions about Dougherty’s arrest, a spokesperson for District Attorney Summer Stephan confirmed Thursday that “an arrest warrant was executed this morning as part of a large-scale, ongoing fraud investigation.” The D.A.’s spokesperson said more details about the arrest and be released on Friday. 

NBC 7 Investigates reporter Mari Payton explains why Christopher Dougherty no longer has control over the funds he allegedly obtained through a Ponzi scheme.

NBC 7 Investigates first reported the allegations against Dougherty in March, after 11 of the 35 investors said they have each lost tens to hundreds of thousands in what Dougherty touted as an investment “opportunity”. 

Dougherty filed for bankruptcy in November and earlier this month, a judge stripped Dougherty of control of those investment funds and other assets.  

The trustee assigned to Dougherty’s case said this month that more victims could come forward in this case. 

At a chapter seven hearing to go over Dougherty's assets, investors, including the Taylors, said they've lost hope they will see their money back.

"It’s just gone, it’s gone,” 

Dougherty and his attorneys have not responded to NBC 7’s request for comment. But at an April 4 bankruptcy court proceeding, Dougherty’s attorney told a judge his client’s financial status “is not as dire as portrayed.” 

And in his response to an investor lawsuit, Dougherty denied all allegations of investor fraud. 

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