Convicted Ponzi schemer gets 16 years

January 14, 2011 3:23:56 PM PST
David Hernandez was sentenced Friday for swindling investors out of more than $6 million.

Hernandez is best known for starting an Internet radio station named Webio in Chicago. He used the money in a Ponzi-type scheme, paying investors with other people's investments.

A judge sentenced Hernandez to more than 16 years in prison and ordered him to pay back his investors.

Federal prosecutors left court satisfied that the mastermind of an investment scheme that bilked millions of dollars out of investors will spend close to the next two decades in prison.

"The judge saw exactly what Mr. Hernandez is and sentenced him appropriately," said Brian Hayes, Assistant U.S. Attorney.

Calling him a "conman" and a "thief" Friday morning, U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman sentenced Hernandez to 16 years and eight months.

"You victimize anyone who puts trust in you. Your whole life has been a Ponzi scheme. Well, it's caught up to you. It saddens me," said Judge Gettleman.

The Downers Grove native pleaded guilty last year to mail fraud for swindling more than 250 people out of roughly $6.4 million which he used to fund the now-defunct Chicago Sports Webio, an Internet-based sports talk radio station he launched with Chicago sports radio personality Mike North.

"This defendant was someone who was calculating. He was callous and he defrauded lots of investors out of lots of money," said Michael Sterling, Assistant U.S. Attorney.

During a tearful plea for a lighter sentence, Hernandez, with his attorney John Meyers at his side, blamed his actions on the mental illness which he claims stems from childhood abuse. He also offered an apology to his many victims.

"From the bottom of my heart, I do apologize. We all want to go back in the past and right wrongs but can't. I can only go forward," Hernandez said.

But the court didn't buy it, especially after the 50-year-old was arrested last August while out on bond for forging a doctor's note that claimed he had cancer. He also left his residence while on home confinement without permission.

While none of Hernandez's victims were at Friday's hearing, those affected by his crimes have little sympathy for him.

"I feel for the pensioners, the elderly people that gave their life savings to this guy in good faith, and all he did was run a Ponzi scheme," said Chet Coppock, former Webio host.

A judge ordered Hernandez to make restitution for the millions he stole. Most investors and victims will probably never see a dime because the judge has determined that Hernandez has no assets. He forfeited the luxury cars he had.