COLUMBIA — More investors are getting back some of the money they entrusted to a trio now serving decades in prison for an $80 million scam, according to a judge's order signed this week.
On Thursday, court-appointed receiver Beattie Ashmore said he's distributing $2.5 million to people victimized by the “3 Hebrew Boys.”
A federal judge appointed Ashmore, a Greenville attorney, to round up and sell off assets belonging to the men – Joseph Brunson, Tony Pough and Timothy McQueen. After a federal trial in Columbia, the men were convicted in 2009 on dozens of counts including mail fraud and money laundering. The money is being distributed under an order issued Monday by U.S. District Judge Margaret Seymour.
Brunson and McQueen were each sentenced to 27 years in prison, and Pough was sentenced to 30 years – punishments prosecutors said were the highest ever for fraud convictions in South Carolina's federal courts.
The men called themselves the “3 Hebrew Boys,” drawing their nickname from a Biblical tale about believers in God who survived being tossed into a fiery furnace because of their faith.
In their pitch, the men told investors they had been through the flames of crushing debt and survived, thanks to their secret investments and the power of God.
Prosecutors said the three men traveled to churches and other gatherings across the Southeast and spoke to soldiers near military outposts, preaching how faith and an investment in what they said were foreign currencies would at least double their money, wipe out credit card debt and pay off mortgages in months.
Authorities said the men preyed on debt-plagued investors, actually putting less than $1 out of every $10,000 into the foreign currency markets. A very small percentage went to other investments, such as a limo service or small businesses, but most of it went for a fleet of expensive cars, vacation homes, pro football game luxury boxes and a Gulfstream jet.
The trio remained defiant to the end, telling authorities they believed they did nothing wrong and planned to use some of the proceeds to feed hungry children and help the homeless. As part of their sentences, the men were also ordered to repay $82 million in restitution. An appeals court is currently weighing their case.
In May 2012, the first allotment of $19 million was distributed to more than 4,000 people who said they were fleeced by the trio. U.S. Attorney Bill Nettles said those payments represented 46 cents on each dollar invested.
Much money is still unaccounted for, but Ashmore said Thursday that, without help from the defendants or people they allegedly entrusted with some of the money, his work is likely over.
“The Three Hebrew Boys spent wildly and lived lavishly and transferred millions of dollars to their confederates,” Ashmore said. “Unless one of them comes forward to reveal hidden assets, we are reaching the end of this case.”