Michael J. DaCorta, a 57-year-old man from Sarasota, Florida, recently learned the hard way that the biggest downside of cheating the IRS and running a longtime Ponzi scheme can be summed up in two fairly straightforward words: “federal prison.”
In October, it was announced that DaCorta had been sentenced to 23 years in federal prison. He was at the forefront of a Ponzi scheme that ran from 2011 to 2019 by way of an investment company named Oasis International Group. In addition, he was also convicted of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, and filing fake income tax returns.
The Story So Far
For those unfamiliar, a Ponzi scheme is a particular type of investment fraud that pays current investors with money collected from new ones. The types of people who run these schemes like Michael J. DaCorta promise new investors incredible returns with little or no risk to speak of. However, the money is not actually invested. It is simply used to pay off people who had previously been tricked by the scheme, with the rest being saved for those running the operation. Ponzi schemes are notable because they have little and often no legitimate earnings to speak of.
In just eight years, it was estimated that DaCorta and his cohorts convinced at least 700 people to invest in Oasis International Group. They did so via promissory notes and similar methods. All told, the Ponzi scheme swindled people out of at least $80 million over that period.
As is true with a lot of these situations, DaCorta used the money he was stealing to fund an extravagant lifestyle. Court records show that he used money from the scheme to purchase a Maserati, Range Rovers, and other types of expensive cars for himself and his family members. He used it to fund his membership in an expensive country club. He had multiple homes, all valued at millions of dollars, throughout Florida.
He took flights on private jets to Europe and the Cayman Islands, he paid for college for his family members, and more – all with money people thought they were investing in a legitimate enterprise.
To top it all off, in 2017 he claimed a negative income on his federal tax return – netting him a sizable tax refund in the process.
In the end, this should be an important lesson for everyone. Setting aside the moral and ethical implications, Ponzi schemes by their nature are unsustainable. They only function for as long as you have new people coming in and once that stops, things go south pretty quickly. Likewise, if you are going to engage in widespread criminal activities, don’t lie on your income tax returns on top of it. If the IRS was able to help take down Al Capone, they would certainly have no trouble dealing with a 57-year-old from Florida.