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Financial Crimes

Menands man pleads guilty in massive Ponzi scheme

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A 53-year-old Menands resident pleaded guilty on August 19 to mail fraud and filing a fraudulent tax return following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) led investigation.

Christopher Bass operated a high-yield investment scheme in which investors were allegedly defrauded of their investment funds. According to court documents, from 2007 through early this year, Bass promoted, managed and directed the fraudulent investment program involving the purchase of securities to investors throughout the United States, using addresses in Troy, Menands and Albany, N.Y.

Between January 2007 and August 2009, Bass solicited and accepted more than $5.5 million from more than 250 investors, establishing accounts on behalf of each investor, subsequently using the majority to pay for his personal expenses and to repay investors at least $1.25 million who demanded a return of their initial investment. He also used their investments to pay for expenses incurred in operating the scheme, pay for the rent for office locations in Albany, New York City and Irvine, Calif., as well as to pay the rent for a luxury apartment in New York City.

The investigation was conducted by ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Secret Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Bass remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshal's Service and is scheduled to be sentenced in December 2010.