Neal Goyal went so far in his masquerade as a hedge fund manager that he set up computer monitors as props to help him pretend to trade the money investors entrusted him with.
But Goyal wasn’t a finance whiz like he pretended to be.
Instead, Goyal was running a Ponzi scheme. He stole more than $9 million from his clients — including his family and friends — to “prop up his extravagant lifestyle,” federal prosecutors said.
On Thursday, some of those victims watched as Goyal was sentenced to six years in prison for a crime that victims say left them with no life savings, college funds for their kids or the ability to trust.
“I’m a rotten individual for what I did to them,” a tearful Goyal told U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly and his own family and victims in court. “I’m a rotten individual for what I did to my family.”
It was an emotional ending to a crime that prosecutors say began in 2006 and continued until 2014, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began asking questions about his Caldera Investments Group.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Yeadon said that since 2009, Goyal wasn’t even trading his investor’s money.
But he opened an “opulent office” on Michigan Avenue and had an array of computer screens where Goyal “pretended he was trading.”
It was done, Yeadon said, to “fool investors.”
Goyal, who has pleaded guilty to fraud, said there was no excuse for what he had done.
During his tearful speech to the court, he turned around to face his family and victims.
“How could I do this to my own brother and sister?” he said, his voice shaking.
“Mom and dad,” he said. “I lied to you.”
Still, Goyal’s mother and other relatives, including his wife, asked Kennelly to impose a lenient sentence. Goyal, they said, has three young kids.
“Neal never intended for this to get out of hand,” his mother, Vijai Goyal, had told the judge. “It was a misguided attempt to hide his failure.”
But other victims described how they were betrayed by a man who had gone to law school and knew the law.
One of the victims, Manisha Thakur, told the judge, “To be cold and calculating and especially a con man is what Neal was.”
And the the judge was unmoved by Goyal’s family’s pleas.
“If you had given one thought — one thought! — during those eight years to your family members, you wouldn’t be standing here,” the judge told Goyal.