Feds charge missing investor

June 18, 2009 4:32:49 AM PDT
Federal mail fraud charges were filed Wednesday morning against a missing investor who authorities say bilked more than 100 other investors in a Ponzi scheme. David Hernandez, 48, is the man behind the well-known Chicago sports personality Mike North. David Hernandez bankrolled Mike North's Web site, coming up with millions of dollars from investors. But now investigators say it's all a Ponzi scheme and Hernandez has been missing for more then 24 hours.

An arrest warrant was issued for Hernandez, authorities said. The complaint alleges that Hernandez used his company, NextStep Financial Services, to solicit and obtain investments through the Internet by lying about himself and the safety and returns of his investments.

Hernandez allegedly used money from investors to purchase musical instruments and vehicles, according to the charges.

FBI agents last Friday executed a federal search warrant at NextStep Financial Services offices on the 22nd floor at 225 West Washington St., Chicago.

Mail fraud can carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Hernandez lives with his wife, Gina, in Downers Grove. When he did not return home from work Monday night, she called police to file a missing-persons report. Police said she last spoke to him by phone just before 7 Monday night and the things he said Monday night made her very concerned.

"The comments were enough to alarm her to feel that he was at risk," said Sgt. David Bormann, Downer's Grove Police.

On Monday, Hernandez was accused of running a Ponzi scheme. The Securities and Exchange Commission said he nettedf $11 million at least in at least 12 states. The SEC said Hernandez told investors they were funding a pay day lending business. In reality, feds said he used the money for personal expenses and other businesses, including Chicago Sports Webio, a Web site featuring several well-known Chicago sports talk personalities. It was created by host Mike North and also features longtime Chicago sportscaster Chet Coppock.

"He might be in Memphis, Tennessee, or Tijuana or Costa Rica but this guy, this guy is a classic scam artist," said Coppock.

Police say Hernandez was last seen driving an olive-colored 2005 Ford Explorer. He was wearing a burgundy shirt and khaki trousers.

Coppock says he's still showing up for work at Chicago Sports Webio even though one of his recent paychecks bounced and another hasn't arrived.

"We'll be back on the air sooner rather than later, but in the meantime there's a collective feeling of embarrassment," said Coppock.

In 1998, David Hernandez pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly $700,000 from investors when he was vice president of a Chicago bank. But Downers Grove police said that case has nothing to do with their investigation. They only want to know if anyone knows where Hernandez is.


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