Michael J. DaCorta, a 57-year-old Sarasota man convicted of running an $80 million Ponzi scheme, has been sentenced to 23 years in federal prison and was ordered to pay $52 million in restitution to victims.
The former head of a Longboat Key financial firm was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William F. Jung after being found guilty in May of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud, money laundering and filing a false income tax return. The court also ordered he forfeit $2,817,876.16.
Jung ordered the he immediately be taken into custody by U.S. Marshals.
“Mr. DaCorta guaranteed his more than 700 clients an ‘oasis’ of an investment, when in reality all they got was a dust bowl of empty promises,” Brian Payne, the special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation unit, said in a statement issued after the sentencing.
“Today’s significant prison sentence ordered by the court should offer some measure of justice to all of those impacted by the destructive wake of Mr. DaCorta’s greed and indifference.”
According to testimony during the trial and to federal officials, DaCorta ran Oasis International Group Limited. In his role, he and co-conspirators “induced victims to invest in Oasis by falsely representing to victim-investors that Oasis was reaping enormous profits by being a ‘market maker’ and collecting ‘spread’ on voluminous forex trades.”
He told victims the investments were mostly risk free and that Oasis was well collateralized, officials said. The truth was, Oasis didn’t have any revenue, and any “spread” earnings it did make was used “to create the illusion of revenue.”
This false information was then sent to investors in the form of fictitious account statements and posted on an online investor portal. Prosecutors say the portal showed the “spread” credits “but concealed catastrophic underlying trading losses.”
DaCorta and his alleged co-conspirators would then use the money invested to make payments to maintain the Ponzi scheme and to fund their lifestyles.
Oasis is currently in receivership as victims and creditors attempt to recoup what they can.
According to a website set up for victims by the receivership, the court-appointed receiver Burton W. Wiand described Oasis at the sentencing hearing as “one of the most insidious schemes I’ve ever encountered.”
Wiand, according to the website, told Jung that about $20 million had been recovered thus far.
A couple who were victims of the scheme spoke before sentencing saying their family was “emotionally drained” by their loss. The husband, according to recieverships’s website, called DaCorta “a parasite on society.”
Prosecutors say DaCorta used the victims’ money to buy a Maserati and Range Rovers for family members, a country club membership, multiple million-dollar homes and college tuition for family member, as well as flights on private jets and trips to Europe and the Cayman Islands.
He was also convicted of underreporting his income in 2017. He claimed negative income for the year and got a tax refund.
DaCorta’s attorney have already filed a notice to appeal.
If the conviction and sentence stand, DaCorta will be 80 years old at the end of his prison term.