GREENBELT, Md. — An funding adviser charged with orchestrating a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme spent practically three-quarters of 1,000,000 on prayers by Hindu clergymen in India to thrust back a federal investigation and save her failing enterprise, in line with testimony at her trial this week.
Utilizing traders’ cash, Daybreak Bennett paid a person in Washington state roughly $720,000 between 2015 and 2017 to rearrange for the clergymen to carry out non secular ceremonies meant to ease her troubles, mentioned a Justice Division prosecutor and the person Bennett paid. For considered one of these “yagya” rituals, Bennett spent $7,250 for 5 clergymen to hope for her throughout 29 consecutive days.
“I’m in a really very robust battle going towards my enemies and I would like all the assistance I can get,” Bennett wrote in an e mail to Puja.web web site operator Benjamin Collins.
Six-figure funds for prayers did not spare Bennett from a 17-count indictment on fraud costs. Neither did the “hoodoo” spells that investigators suspected her of casting to stymie federal investigators, a declare fueled by a peculiar discovery throughout an FBI search of her residence.
Collins, a authorities witness at Bennett’s trial, testified on Tuesday that he sincerely believed the non secular rituals would assist Bennett, whose funds accounted for roughly half of his web site’s revenue.
“We do not essentially pray with a assured final result,” he added.
Bennett, 56, raised greater than $20 million from no less than 46 traders in her luxurious sportswear firm, usually preying on aged shoppers who knew her from a radio present she hosted within the Washington, D.C., space, authorities have mentioned. They mentioned she used traders’ cash for her private profit, together with jewellery purchases, beauty medical procedures and a $500,000 annual lease for a luxurious suite on the Dallas Cowboys’ residence stadium.
Bennett advised U.S. District Decide Paula Xinis on Thursday that she would not intend to testify at her trial. One among her trial legal professionals, Dennis Boyle, mentioned Bennett invested $13 million of her personal cash into the fledgling attire enterprise, promoting belongings and mortgaging houses to generate money.
“She clearly believes that it is a reputable firm,” he mentioned. “It catered to solely essentially the most discerning folks.”
However her attire enterprise, DJBennett, by no means made a revenue and had no less than $15.6 million in liabilities and solely $550,000 in income by December 2016, in line with a grievance filed by the U.S. Securities and Trade Fee.
The indictment says she additionally used cash from some traders to pay others, however many misplaced all the pieces they paid Bennett.
Joan Barney, a retired journey agent whose husband has Parkinson’s illness and dementia, mentioned she invested a complete of $200,000 in Bennett’s enterprise. Barney testified Wednesday that she had recognized Bennett for greater than 25 years and believed her promise that she might get her a reimbursement, plus 15 % curiosity, at any time when she wanted it. She mentioned Bennett despatched her a marketing strategy that purportedly confirmed the corporate was worthwhile.
“I trusted Daybreak,” mentioned Barney, who added that Bennett “knew that this was the one cash that I needed to take care of my husband and his sickness.”
Barney obtained a $37,500 return on her funding however misplaced the remainder. One other investor, Diane Keefe, fought again tears when she testified that she hasn’t recovered any of the $816,805 she paid Bennett.
Keefe mentioned Bennett had advised her the web attire firm was thriving.
“And I believed her,” she mentioned.
The FBI’s investigation of Bennett started in December 2015 after the SEC formally accused her of defrauding traders by inflating the quantity of belongings she managed and exaggerating the returns on her prospects’ investments. The SEC cited statements that Bennett made on her paid weekly radio present, “Monetary Delusion Busting With Daybreak Bennett.”
Bennett’s monetary advisory enterprise was dropping shoppers and incurring tens of millions of in losses earlier than she turned to the fraudulent sale of promissory notes to “faucet a brand new revenue stream,” the SEC mentioned in its grievance.
“As her monetary situation quickly deteriorated, Bennett started accumulating a wide range of private monetary obligations, however nonetheless continued to spend appreciable sums to fund her extravagant way of life,” the grievance mentioned.
When FBI brokers searched Bennett’s residence in Chevy Chase, Maryland, final 12 months, they discovered directions for putting folks beneath a “Beef Tongue Shut Up Hoodoo Spell” and biographical info for no less than three authorities attorneys engaged on the SEC investigation of Bennett, in line with an agent’s affidavit.
FBI brokers additionally discovered the initials of SEC attorneys written on the lids of Mason jars saved in Bennett’s freezers, suggesting she had forged spells in hopes of “paranormally silencing” the SEC attorneys, the agent wrote.
Bennett’s attorneys argued that any such “hoodoo” practices are irrelevant and their point out by prosecutors solely serves to smear her. Boyle additionally objected to testimony concerning the “substance” of the prayers she commissioned in India.
“The truth that she prays to a special God or has a special religion should not matter,” he mentioned.
Bennett’s trial in Greenbelt began Oct. 2 and is predicted to stretch into subsequent week. Bennett initially was freed after her August 2017 arrest in Santa Fe, New Mexico, however a Justice of the Peace choose later ordered her detained for violating the phrases of her pretrial launch.
Bradley Mascho, who labored because the chief monetary officer for considered one of Bennett’s corporations, was indicted on associated costs. He pleaded responsible in June to conspiring to commit securities fraud and awaits a sentencing listening to.