Ponzi scam artist who stole $100M escapes from federal prison

By Ray Downs  |  Dec. 8, 2017 at 1:59 AM
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Dec. 8 (UPI) -- A Ponzi scheme fraudster who bilked investors out of more than $100 million escaped from federal prison in California, officials said Thursday.

Frederick Darren Berg, 55, was serving an 18-year sentence for for wire fraud, money laundering and bankruptcy fraud at the U.S. Penitentiary Atwater Satellite Prison Camp near Merced, Calif. But when prison officials checked on Berg at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, he was gone.

Merced County Sheriff Vern Warnke told the Merced Sun-Star that his department has a "be on the lookout" notice for the wanted fugitive.

"We offered our assistance, but they assured us he was probably already out of the area," Warnke said.

Prison officials did not say how Berg escaped. They did say they don't believe he's still in the area.

According to the SeattlePI, Berg carried out the biggest financial scam in Washington state history when he stole $120 million from more than 800 investors over a period of 10 years.

He was convicted in 2012 and sentenced to 18 years in federal prison.

"This defendant stole and squandered the dreams of hundreds: dreams of retirement, dreams of homeownership, dreams of a college education for their children and grandchildren," U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said at the time.

Berg's story of crime and luxury was documented in CNBC's American Greed last year, the Seattle Times reported. The episode depicted Berg as a cocksure spendthrift who owned two yachts and an airplane, as well as high-priced real estate in Seattle.

"I'm actually having fun in this economy...There's nothing funner than being right," he said in a 2009 video pitch to investors.

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