Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feds Link GOP Senate Hopeful Joe DioGuardi to Ponzi Firm by Kathleen Ludacamo

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Senate hopeful Joe DioGuardi has a history with a firm the feds say ran a $1.7B Ponzi scheme.

U.S. Senate hopeful Joe DioGuardi prides himself on his accounting expertise - but he has a history with a firm the feds say ran a $1.7 billion Ponzi scheme.
Medical Capital Holdings and its subsidiaries bilked investors out of $1 billion while sinking millions into a mega-yacht and Hollywood flop, a complaint filed last year by the Securities and Exchange Commission said.
From 2007 to 2009, the former Westchester Republican congressman was paid $5,000 a month as a consultant for the subsidiary Medical Capital Corp. - and also got $16,000 a year to sit on boards of various other MCH subsidiaries.
MCH managed the messy books for several of the companies involved in the so-called scheme and was named in the suit.
DioGuardi, a trained accountant, claims he was oblivious to any wrongdoing.
"As a consultant, Joe was tasked with saving hospitals in New York from being shut down, but knew nothing of the schemes that were occurring behind the scenes," said his spokesman Brian Hummell, adding that his boss "has never seen the books."
The SEC described DioGuardi, who faces incumbent Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in next month's election, as an "old crony" of the company's bosses and suggested "he's connected to the original fraudulent scheme."
As of last November, thousands of investors were owed $1 billion. The feds froze the company's assets; the case is pending.
MCH moved last year to have DioGuardi replace a court-appointed manager of its assets, which include the $3.2 million yacht Home Stretch and the $18.1 million movie rights to the recent flick "The Perfect Game."
The SEC countered that he had a long history with the company, including sitting on the board of three subsidiaries.
"DioGuardi is not 'new' management at all, but rather an old crony of \[the management charged with fraud\] who has been on their payroll since at least 2004," prosecutors said.
Since the managers didn't tell the court about DioGuardi's background with the company, the SEC said their "attempt to hide their connections to so-called 'new' management shows that there is a genuine danger that 'new' management is connected to the original fraudulent scheme."
DioGuardi agreed to help the company reorganize to avoid bankruptcy after the SEC charges were disclosed, a campaign aide said. A judge denied MCH's request.
DioGuardi, a former CPA who served two terms in Congress, trails Gillibrand in most polls by double digits.
Gillibrand's spokesman Glen Caplin called DioGuardi's connection to MCH "the latest example of how the former big-spending congressman turned lobbyist . . . is completely wrong for New York."