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Vernon Hills man sentenced to 5 years for operating Ponzi scheme: Feds

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A Vernon Hills man was sentenced Monday to 5 years in federal prison for swindling more than $1.4 million from at least 15 clients.

Between 2012 and 2016, 50-year-old Richard K. Booy used the companies he founded, Principal Financial Strategies LLC and Safe Financial Strategies Inc., to convince at least 15 clients to give him more than $1.4 million, said a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

Booy promised clients no-risk investments and guaranteed returns, prosecutors said. Rather than investing the funds, Booy used the money to cover personal expenses, such as health insurance, fitness club memberships, purchases as Best Buy and DirecTV and to make Ponzi-like payments to earlier investors.

Most of Booy’s victims were elderly, and some handed over their entire life saving to him, prosecutors said. His victims include a Chicago pastor, a retired painter, a government worker and an individual who suffers from Parkinson’s Disease.

“Defendant committed much of this egregious conduct while sitting in his victims’ homes and in their places of worship,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew S. Ebert argued in the government’s sentencing memorandum. “While face-to-face repeatedly with his victims, Booy brazenly made his pitch knowing that his actual purpose was to obtain and then devour his victims’ savings, pensions, and income.”

Booy claimed to be affiliated with the more widely recognized Principal Financial Group, but he had no actual relationship with the firm, according to prosecutors. Principal Financial Group obtained a temporary restraining order against him, which led to a court-authorized seizure of his computer and other evidence from his home.