POCATELLO, Idaho - The Idaho Falls man behind a $78 million Ponzi scheme, Daren Palmer, faced sentencing in federal court Tuesday.
It turns out $29 million stolen in wire fraud and money laundering equals eight years in federal prison and three years of probation when Palmer gets out.
Palmer will be fifty years old when he's free again, and over those eight years will miss seeing his five kids grow up.
"Today's sentence is a fair and just punishment for Daren Palmer's irreparable and lasting harm caused to his investors,? U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said.
Victims who spoke at the sentencing asked the judge for the maximum possible punishment.
"Although Daren Palmer will be spending 8 years in prison, many of his victims will spend most of their lives trying to recover financially from his conduct,? Olson said.
But the judge's sentence of eight years was at the low end of what the prosecution suggested.
Palmer and his attorney had filed a request for leniency to the judge, saying when Palmer began his investment business he did not set out to scheme or defraud.
The sentencing memorandum also said Palmer hoped to fix his mistakes.
"Mr. Palmer knew that his investment program had become a scheme, but felt that he could ultimately make things right,? Palmer's attorney wrote.
Making things right is part of the sentence; the law requires Palmer to pay back the money to his victims, to the tune of $29,842,731.
Of course, no one involved in the case seemed to think it's likely much of that money will ever be repaid.
"It is unlikely that in his working life he will make $29 million plus the interest that the court imposed, but certainly any amount that he earns above what he needs to subsist on will be collected by the court and distributed to the victims,? Olson said.
Palmer spoke during his sentencing, apologizing to the victims of his scheme, expressing remorse, and saying ?I'm sorry? specifically for the pain and anguish he caused his own family.
Palmer pleaded guilty in May on charges of wire fraud and money laundering, according to court documents.
In the court documents, it shows David Swenson and three others with Worry Free LLC, of Utah, invested $500,000 with Palmer's company Trigon Group in September 2008. Palmer had sent Swenson a presentation in an email showing a good rate of return and a safe investment with Trigon Group.
In January 2009, Swenson called Palmer to get a quarterly statement. But in the phone call, Palmer said there were problems, then hung up. Swenson later learned the money was gone.
The documents show Palmer received about $75.8 million between 2002 and 2008 from 68 investors. They lost more than $20 million of that money.
According to the court record, Palmer used his company's money to buy $110,550 in jewelry for his personal use, which constitutes wire fraud.