Accused Boca Raton Ponzi schemer pleads not guilty
Nov 16, 2012 (Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A 25-year-old man accused of running a $10 million investment fraud out of Boca Raton pleaded not guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Federal prosecutors allege Donald R. French Jr., a former Florida Atlantic University student, was just 21 years old when he formed D3 Capital Management, which took in money from more than 50 investors. He promised clients he could generate returns of up to 50 percent by investing their money in foreign currencies, emeralds and even a solar energy project in Italy, court documents show.
French only invested a small amount of the money with most of it going to him and his unnamed co-conspirators, according to court records filed Thursday. Federal authorities have alleged he used investors' funds to finance his life as an international jet-setter and high-stakes gambler.
French spent several years living in Rome and would go on wild gambling trips to Las Vegas, racking up $689,000 in debts, court records show. He was detained in South Africa this summer and brought back to Las Vegas for passing bad checks at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas casino. He pleaded guilty in August to passing a bad check and then was brought back to South Florida.
Court records indicate French may be working out a plea deal with federal prosecutors. If convicted of the conspiracy to commit fraud charge, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
He is being held in federal custody without bond.
When an FBI agent sat down with French in July, he came clean that he invested only a small fraction of investors' money and had used his "gift of gab" to manipulate them, according to court records.
French's last office address was in the heart of the upscale Mizner Park shopping area, but it turned out all he had was "a virtual office" -- nothing more than a phone number and a mail drop.
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