A Louisville, Tn., woman has been sentenced to serve 360 months in federal prison for her part in a scheme at Knoxville's Benchmark Capital.
Joyce Allen, 67, appeared before Judge Thomas A. Varlan. She was immediately taken into custody by the U.S. Marshals Service following the sentencing hearing.
She was ordered to pay $20,711,371.72 in restitution. Forfeiture of the same cash amount was also ordered by the court.
After a September 2014 jury trial, Ms.
Allen was found guilty of charges contained in a March 2014 superseding indictment against her and five other individuals associated with Benchmark Capital, a Knoxville business owned by Charles D. Candler.
Prosecutors said, "The business purpose of Benchmark was to defraud investors by taking their funds in exchange for worthless and non-existent investments, and paying a portion of the funds received to earlier investors under the guise of paying dividends, interest and mortgage payments, thereby encouraging new investors to entrust their funds to Benchmark."
Ms. Allen was the president of J. Allen and Associates, Inc., based in Louisville, Tn. Through this business, she induced individuals to pay funds to her in exchange for annuity investments with Benchmark, knowing that these funds would not be placed with Benchmark or any other company for investments, but converted to personal use by Allen and her other co-conspirators, it was stated.
The other five individuals named in the superseding indictment pleaded guilty and have been previously sentenced by the U.S. District Court. Candler died in March 2012 before he could be charged in the conspiracy.
U.S. Attorney Bill Killian stated, “We are pleased with this lengthy sentence and the message it sends to others who use or consider using their positions of trust to defraud innocent victims. This case is a good example of how law enforcement agencies working together can bring individuals to justice for their criminal acts.”
"The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure the U.S. Mails are not utilized as a tool to defraud victims in these types of Ponzi schemes” said Thomas Noyes, II, Postal Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division.
“IRS-Criminal Investigation is committed to unraveling complex fraud and money laundering schemes. We are proud to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute individuals who attempt to enrich themselves by fraudulent means," stated Christopher A. Henry, Special Agent in Charge. “Today’s sentencing should send a clear message to those who would consider conducting or participating in these types of fraudulent financial transactions.”
“Money laundering and fraudulent investments have a devastating impact on the community. Those who steal money from victims who are attempting to save money for their future will pay a high price through the criminal justice system,” said Edward Reinhold, FBI Special Agent in Charge, Knoxville Division.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frank M. Dale, Jr., and Jennifer Kolman represented the United States at trial.